If there’s one thing you can say about the Yankees farm system, it’s that they have a good stable of promising outfielders. Count Slade Heathcott among those promising outfielders, despite not being healthy for the better part of a few years. His grittiness will draw comparisons to Brett Gardner, but his overall tools project him to be better in all phases of the game than the current Yankees left fielder. Let’s take a look into how Heathcott will progress going forward.
It’s been a long road for Slade, he has battled not only injuries, but demons as well. Over his four-year career within the Yankees system he’s only had a little over a season’s worth of at-bats (755) to show what he can do. His injuries — mainly stemming from two major shoulder surgeries — have mostly contributed to that. More worrisome is in the four seasons he’s been with the club, he’s played in only 197 games, which is undoubtedly stunted his growth. However, when he’s playing, he’s one of the brightest prospects the Yankees have throughout their system.
A look into his numbers reveal he can handle the bat very well. The 22-year-old outfielder has hit .275/.360/.407 over his career, but it’s his 215 ABs with Tampa last season that have most scouts raving about his upside. While with the Hi-A club he recorded a .307/.378/.470 slash line, with five home runs, 27 RBI, and 17 stolen bases (caught stealing four times). Extrapolating that out — if he were on the same plane throughout the season — he’d hit around 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and 45 stolen bases. Those are some seriously good numbers, but again that’s not saying he’ll do that over the course of a full season.
He plays with a tremendous amount of energy, which has rubbed off on many of his teammates at his various stops. As evidence by his stolen base totals, he has the wheels to take a bag as well as cover a ton of ground in the outfield. His arm is a howitzer, which is gaining strength after two surgeries — most notably a labrum tear that kept him out for part of 2011 and most of the 2012 season.
Baseball America ranked him as the second-best prospect in the Yankees system behind Mason Williams. They also gave him the best defensive outfielder, and best throwing arm in the system designations. Many compare him to Brett Gardner because of his gritty play, defense, and speed, but he’s projected to hit for a bit more power than Gardner. On the downside of that comparison, Heathcott doesn’t have the eye that Gardner has, as evidence by his K% (27.2% in 2012) and BB% (8.2% in 2012).
I saved the best part of Heathcott’s scouting report for last. His most recent stop at the Arizona Fall League he recorded a ridiculous .388/.494/.602 (192 wRC+) slash line in 67 at-bats, and had one scout over at Baseball America anointing him as the best prospect in the league. While he’ll never hit that over an entire season, he has that type of potential as a hitter.
Heathcott will begin the season in Trenton with the Yankees Double-A affiliate. He’ll play alongside another great Yankees prospect, Tyler Austin. With the way he handles the bat and glove he could very well be in the Bronx by 2014, but will more likely get his chance in 2015. In order for that happen he needs to stay healthy, which has been the proverbial thorn in his side throughout his career. It appears his alcohol problems and outbursts are behind him, as he has matured over the last two seasons. If I were a betting man, I’d say he’ll be in the Yankees outfield with Tyler Austin and Brett Gardner in 2015.
***Be sure to check out our other write-ups on prominent Yankees prospects at our Prospect Page***