While the Yankees in the Bronx seem to be losing someone to injury on a daily basis, the Baby Bombers have crept their way back to being fully healthy. With center fielder Slade Heathcott’s return on Thursday, the Yankees’ Top Ten prospects are finally all on the field for 2014.
Slade Heathcott was drafted 29th overall in the first round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft. Heathcott was scouted as having the ability to be a five-tool player at the major league level, however, he was also labeled an injury risk. Throughout his first six seasons, both have proven to be correct.
The center fielder currently sits as Baseball America’s number two prospect in the Yankees’ system, however, he has spent more time off the field the last five years than on it. His 2010 season ended with a shoulder injury for Charleston and he was able to play a meager 53 games between two clubs in 2011. 2012 saw Heathcott’s second shoulder surgery of his young career. Last season, it was patellar tendinitis that got Heathcott. The end result was offseason surgery to his right knee, which kept him rehabbing in extended spring training until yesterday.
2013 also showed what Heathcott is capable of when he does play. It was the first time in his short career that he played in over 76 games as he reached the field 103 times. His .261 batting average wasn’t eye-popping, but his ability to do everything well sure caught people’s attention. He ripped 22 doubles and legged out seven triples while hitting eight home runs and stealing 15 bases. He drove in 49 runs and scored 59 more. What the Yankees saw last season was what they envisioned when they invested a first round pick in him four years prior.
Heathcott is also touted as the best defender in the Yankees’ system. This is really where he is a liability. Heathcott seemingly knows only one way to play — all-out. He has been labeled as “reckless” and “ultra-aggressive” which in turn has plagued his career with injury after injury. Does Heatchcott mind the label?
“We’re all entitled to our own opinion, and that’s a big thing for me,” Heathcott told the Trentonian in regards to how people view his reckless abandon. “Whether I like sausage pizza and somebody likes pepperoni pizza, it doesn’t matter. That’s their choice of wording. I just try to play the game respectfully. I do it because of me, and because of my grandfathers and the way they worked and still work. I just feel like that’s how its supposed to be played.”
Heathcott went 0-for-4 in his Thunder debut Thursday, but no one really cared. What was important was that he walked off the field under his own duress without any setbacks or major concerns. Now the only question is where does he fits in the ultimate scheme.
The Thunder now have the problem of having the two best center fielders in the Yankees’ system. The Yankees’ number three overall prospect, Mason Williams, has underwhelmed in center thus far, hitting just .188 in 2014. However, his elite defense will keep him in games. As long as Heathcott continues to mend, he should be Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bound sooner than later.
“I think the intention is for (Heathcott) to be here for a while to find out where he is,” skipper Tony Franklin told the Trentonian. “If he starts to take off — or if anyone starts to take off — we’ll probably make an adjustment to the roster. We’ve got an overabundance of players here and were going to have to make a move somewhere.”
For now, every day will be an adventure for Heathcott. The Yankees will hold their breath every time he makes a play for the ball, but hopefully breath a sigh of relief when he turns the corner and reaches his full potential. Until then, let’s keep our fingers crossed that Heatchott’s injury woes are behind him.