Slade Heathcott Scouting Report (2010)
Entering the 2010 season, New York Yankees centerfield prospect Slade Heathcott was considered a darling of the system after being their first round draft pick in 2009. After a season in which he scuffled a bit, how much, if any, of a hit has his prospect value taken? A .258/.359/.352 line is in the neighborhood of league average, but is it fair to expect more from a premium prospect even though he spent the entire year as a teenager at the level?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did only see Heathcott once this season. However, I was able to run my thoughts by a scout who had seen him at length whose impression of the young outfielder was very similar to mine.
Physical Projection: An impressive specimen, Heathcott is what one would describe as “ripped”. Built like a free safety, he makes a strong first impression as a premium athlete who is likely to maximize his physical tools. In the “Sally”, this gave him the physical presence of a man among boys. However, with his present size, where is the projection for even gap power going to come from? And if the gap power does not develop, how does Heathcott turn 15/25 in stolen base attempts to 40/50?
Offense: Heathcott’s offensive performance was a mixed bag as he was able to muster a single in his fourth at bat after racking up three consecutive strikeouts by the fifth inning. If one views the glass as half empty, he lacked the wrist snap often seen out of premium left-handed hitting prospects causing him to swing and miss far too often against “dead read”, 88-90 MPH fastballs.
His hitting mechanics look relatively clean except for the back of his swing where he becomes a bit pull hand heavy creating some drag. It’s what I feel caused him to struggle with pitches above the belt in game action and why he laced a pitch off of his shoe tops with ease.
If one prefers the glass half full approach, a 19-year old rebounding from three consecutive strikeouts to lace a line drive single in his fourth at bat is quite an achievement for a teenager in full season baseball. Heathcott handled failure like a professional and that mentality can take a prospect much further than most people realize.
Defense: Scouts I have spoken to consider Heathcott more of a fringe centerfielder at this point in his development due to poor route running and reads off the bat. However, he’s willing to “run through a wall” to catch a ball and that leaves a lasting impression and hope for defensive growth. Of course it also leaves him with a reputation for being borderline reckless with his body.
Speed: with fifteen steals in twenty-five attempts, something isn’t clicking for Heathcott. In comparison, Savannah’s Cesar Puello managed to go 45/55 in attempts this season with similar speed and better baserunning instincts. Going forward, Heathcott will need to utilize his speed more effectively if he wants to become a true base stealing threat.
After seeing Heathcott, I was left underwhelmed due to the prospect hype he had received entering the season. In retrospect, his not starting in full season ball should have been a sign that maybe the hype was just that. However, players like Heathcott tend to grow on scouts with each additional look as he plays awfully hard and conducts himself like he’s already in New York.
In speaking with a scout, I compared him to a younger Matt Den Dekker of University of Florida College World Series fame, and it was received with a “pretty good comp”. Of course Heathcott is a few years younger, but the similarities in playing styles are hard to ignore.
Slade Heathcott has the upside of a grinder who could start on a second division team, but not a juggernaut like the New York Yankees. Of course the same was said about Brett Gardner, but Heathcott just does not have the elite speed Gardner possesses and incorporates into his all-around game. If one must compare him to a Yankee (current or former), think of him more as a Melky Cabrera type from a statistical standpoint (early when he had some projection) with a a little less power and a little more speed.
23 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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