Archive for Slade Heathcott
This has been a down year for the farm system for the most part, though the most notable exception is the emergence of Tyler Austin from interesting guy to high-end prospect. The Yankees signed the 20-year-old for $135k as their 13th round pick back in 2010, and he’s rewarded them by hitting .322/.404/.583 with 15 homers and 18 steals (in 20 tries) across two levels of Single-A this year. Both Baseball America and Keith Law recently ranked him as one of the 50 best prospects in the game.
The numbers certainly pass the sniff test and at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs., Austin passes the eye test as well. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, a former Yankees intern, scouted him during a recent High-A Tampa game and published the write-up yesterday. It’s an excellent and lengthy Insider-only read, so I can’t give away too much. Here are the most relevant points…
He’s a below-average runner with choppy steps and some thickness to a 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Austin’s arm is slightly above-average, so he can play right field, and he’s quick enough to stay there for now … There is a risk for barring his lead arm and/or a loopy path in how he moves his hands, but Austin has good enough feel for his swing that this hasn’t been a problem in games I’ve seen … Austin’s strength, bat speed and hips combine to create above-average to plus raw power that is most natural to the opposite gap, an encouraging sign for power showing up in games and translating at higher levels … The separator for Austin is his advanced plan, feel and plate coverage that is fueled by his quick hands and allows him to tap into his raw power in games. Austin has a tough profile and little margin for error, but he’s got a good chance to reach his ceiling of .275-.280 average with 25 homers.
Mike Newman passed along a similar report when he caught Austin a few weeks ago, saying the stolen base totals — 36-for-38 in steal attempts for his career — are not indicative of his actual speed and athleticism, and that the swing can get a little flat. Both guys agree that the (hard to find) right-handed pop and opposite field stroke are for real though, ditto the advanced approach that allows Austin to wait for his pitch and take ball four (11.3% walk rate) if he doesn’t get anything to hit.
The long-term concern here is position. Austin was drafted as a catcher and moved to third base almost immediately. He shifted to right field this season in part due to a lack of hot corner quickness, but also because of the presence of Dante Bichette Jr., last year’s first rounder. McDaniel notes that Austin may have to move to first base long-term, though hopefully he can stave off that fate for a few years ago. Either way, Austin’s carrying tool is his bat and if ever reaches the big leagues, it’ll be because he hit his way there. Don’t count on defensive value.
Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has a bit of a spotty track record when it comes to first round/top picks, but he and his scouting staff just kill it in the late rounds, particularly on the mound. They consistently find power arms to feed the bullpen pipeline and dangle in trades, but Austin at least has the potential to be their best late-round find yet as an impact hitter from the right side of the plate. The Yankees are going to need to add some cheap bats to the lineup in the coming years, and Austin could have himself on the big league radar by 2014 if he stays healthy and progresses as hoped.
Just FYI, McDaniel also commented on outfielders Slade Heathcott (“shows big tools with above-average left-handed power and above-average speed that makes for a potentially enticing center-field package”) and Ramon Flores (“the tools are short for big league impact”). Last week he covered Mason Williams and some of those bullpen arms.
The minor league season actually starts before the Major League season this year, though by just one day. Usually the bush leagues kick off like, two weeks after the big boys. Not sure what’s up with that. Anyway, here are some interesting minor league notes courtesy of Chad Jennings…
- VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed that Dante Bichette Jr. will start this season with Low-A Charleston. He’s skipping right over Short Season Staten Island. Tyler Austin will be there as well, and he’s going to play right field while Bichette gets the hot corner. I prefer that to having them share third and DH or something.
- That Charleston team figures to be stacked, by the way. Bichette, Austin, Mason Williams, Cito Culver, Angelo Gumbs, Jose Campos, Bryan Mitchell, Ben Gamel, Evan DeLuca, and Matt Tracy should all be there. Gary Sanchez could be back for an encore as well.
- “He’s going to be ready close to the start of the season … He came back unbelievably fast,” said Newman of Ravel Santana. The outfielder will head to SI once the season starts in June.
- Remember when Slade Heathcott said his latest shoulder surgery will keep him out until May? He was being optimistic. Newman says he’ll be back in June. Sucks.
- Jeremy Bleich is throwing bullpen sessions following the shoulder procedure that cost him most of 2010 and all of 2011. I have to think we’ll see him in a game at some point, assuming the surgically repaired wing holds up.
It’s been a rough few years for 2009 first round pick Slade Heathcott, who signed for $2.2M and has since undergone two left (throwing) shoulder surgeries and battled alcoholism. As the now 21-year-old outfielder says in the video above, the latest shoulder procedure is expected to delay the start of his season and keep him out until May.
“I’m trying not to rush it,” he said. “I’m trying to take as long as possible without being aggressive. I’m trying to be in games around May.”
Heathcott is known for his very aggressive and hard-nosed style of play, which has been a bit of detriment. He was limited to mostly DH duty as a high school senior because of a torn ACL and a left shoulder injury he suffered diving after a ball. This latest surgery is his third major left shoulder problem in the last four years. Since signing, he’s only played in 132 of ~240 possible games. That’s a lot of development time he can’t get back.
I had Heathcott 13th on my annual Top 30 Prospects List, though Baseball America, Keith Law, and FanGraphs each had him in the top ten. He was having a really nice season in 2011 before the injury (.279/.347/.437 in 242 PA), so now he’s got to just focus on staying on the field. The kid just won’t be able to get any better if he doesn’t stop getting hurt.
We’re all focusing on the big league team right now, but Chad Jennings took some time to check in with VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman about some minor league business. I suggest heading over and reading the whole thing, but the important stuff I want to highlight are the injury updates…
- David Adams is still rehabbing from that brutal ankle injury he suffered in May 2010, and he’s scheduled to arrive in Tampa for early Spring Training work next month. The Yankees added Adams to the 40-man roster last month, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.
- Slade Heathcott figures to be behind other position players in Spring Training as he rehabs from his second left shoulder surgery in as many years. It’s his third left shoulder injury since 2009, his senior year of high school, and they’ve limited him to just 132 games over the last 2+ seasons. They’re a very real problem.
- J.R. Murphy is 100% ready to go after missing the end of last season due to a foot/ankle injury suffered when he apparently fouled a pitch off himself. Newman says he will “predominantly” catch in 2012, as he should given the significant improvement in his defense.
- Remember Jeremy Bleich? The Yankees highest signed pick from the 2008 draft hasn’t pitched since May 2010 due to major shoulder surgery, and Newman says he’s still rehabbing.
Yesterday we talked about Baseball America’s lists of the top tools in the big leagues, and today they released their lists for Triple-A, Double-A, and Single-A (subs. req’d). Not too many Yankees farmhand made the cut, only Brandon Laird (best defensive 3B), Ramon Flores (best plate discipline), and Slade Heathcott (best defensive outfielder) took home honors at their respective levels. Jesus Montero got beat out by Ryan Lavarnway (Red Sox) for top power prospect, Dellin Betances by Henderson Alvarez (Blue Jays) for best fastball, Manny Banuelos by Eric Surkamp (Giants) for best changeup, and Gary Sanchez by Bryce Harper for best power prospect. Seems like the Yanks have a lot of guys that would rank second, third, or fourth in the various categories rather than first.
Via Josh Norris, Slade Heathcott has missed most of the last month or so with a left shoulder issue, and it’s likely that he’ll miss the rest of the season. He had surgery on the shoulder this past offseason, and apparently a second surgery is possible. That’s his throwing arm, by the way. That really sucks. Nik Turley, meanwhile, will miss about a month with a broken hand. Line drive got him. He’s already over his previous career high in innings, so the rest might not be the worst thing in the world. Too bad it’s not by choice.
Need some good news? Donnie Collins says that Tim Norton is about a week or so from returning to the mound, which sounds hard to believe after the report of his labrum being severely torn and his career being in jeopardy. Mark Newman confirmed that he’s a week away, so it’s obvious the original injury report was wrong. Great news, Norton was having an absurdly dominant year.
- Right-hander Brian Anderson has been released. He had been on the Double-A Trenton disabled list with a biceps issue, though his performance when he did pitch was pretty good: nine strikeouts and just one walk in 7.1 IP.
- Mark Newman again said that Gary Sanchez is out with a “stiff lower back,” though he’s playing in Extended Spring Training. He is on the Low-A Charleston disabled list at the moment, and he’ll return there when healthy.
- Both Slade Heathcott (.376 wOBA) and J.R. Murphy (.385) will “probably” move up to High-A Tampa this summer. That’s a yes, though I was wondering if Heathcott’s brawl would slow down his schedule somewhat.
- Mark Prior is not throwing off a mound and is dealing with some kind of oblique/hip issue. Alan Horne (remember him?) is throwing in ExST, as is Brad Halsey. Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich, and Steve Garrison aren’t close to returning yet.
- David Adams is still having leg issues. It might be related to last year’s broken ankle, but the leg started bothering him after his one game played this year.
- When asked about who’s impressed in ExST, Newman responded with personal fave Bryan Mitchell. “He’s got electric stuff,” said Newman. “He’s got the stuff to be the next Banuelos, Betances. The high-end guy. That’s Mitchell.”
- Carlos Silva can opt out of his minor league deal in mid-June, so he could probably make another two or three or maybe even four starts for Triple-A Scranton before the Yankees have to make a decision about whether or not to call him up.
When the Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 draft, they knew he was going to be a bit of a long-term project. Just about every high school player is, unless you’re getting a rare talent like Alex Rodriguez or Jason Heyward or Rick Porcello or Clayton Kershaw. These kids need time to develop their physical tools into actual baseball skills, a process that tends to be more painful than pleasant. In 117 career games coming into Thursday, Heathcott is a .274/.363/.388 hitter with 140 strikeouts and 58 walks in 537 plate appearances. He’s been much more productive this year, with a .307/.382/.477 batting line in 38 games played. The hit tool – the ability to actually get the bat on the ball and drive it with authority – was never much of a question for Heathcott though.
The graph above shows Heathcott’s cumulative strikeout and walk rates (expressed as a percentage of his plate appearances) from the start of the 2010 season through Wednesday’s game. You can see that after joining the Low-A Charleston River Dogs in early-June last year, Slade’s strikeout rate gradually climbed as the season went on, finishing at 29.2% of his plate appearances. The walk rate also increased throughout the season, settling in at 12.1% on the final day of the year. That was the ninth best walk rate in the league (min. 350 PA) and the second best by a teenager, so yeah, be impressed.
Heathcott has gotten the strikeout rate under control in 2011 as he unsurprisingly repeats the league. After peaking at 29.7% of his career plate appearances seven games into this season, it’s dropped all the way down to 26.6% thanks to his last 31 games (just 15 K in 138 PA, or 10.9%). The walk rate has been up and down this season, but it’s generally hovered right around that 11-12% mark for his career to date. The walks aren’t a problem at all (league average is about 8.5%, both in Single-A and MLB) and the strikeouts are becoming less of one. The South Atlantic League average is 20.4% strikeouts (17.6% in MLB, if you’re wondering), and although Heathcott is still well-above that mark, he’s steadily improved this year, especially over the last month or so.
Note: Just to be clear, the graph does not include Heathcott’s three game came with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees or Thursday night’s game. Those 15 or so plate appearances don’t make much of a difference anyway.
Yeah, that doesn’t look so good. I figure the catcher had to have said something to him, maybe about yesterday’s article. Stuff like that about a first round pick gets around pretty quickly. Not making excuses for him, because that is total garbage right there and has no place in the game. Heathcott’s going to be suspended for a while, I just have no idea how long. My money’s on 5-10 games.
When the Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 draft, everyone knew the kid had a troubled past, but we didn’t really know what happened. The most popular rumor was that his parents were in jail for drug-related issues. Well, thanks to Gene Sapakoff of The Post & Courier, now we know what happened, and it’s far worse than I think anyone could have imagined. If you only read one thing on this site all day, this is it. Absolute must read.