Scouting Yankees Prospect #5: Slade Heathcott
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Scouting Yankees Prospect #5: Slade Heathcott

The New York Yankees selected outfielder Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 MLB out of Texas High School in Texas. A truly electrifying talent, he spent a good portion of his first three years in the system coming back from two shoulder surgeries but bounced back in a big way in the second half of the 2012 season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Slade Heathcott
Position: Centerfield
DOB: September 28, 1990
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

It had been nearly an entire year, 361 days as a matter of fact, since he ended his 2011 season with a second shoulder surgery and came back for the 2012 campaign.

"I wouldn't say it was hard but it was more of an annoyance being in that same situation and doing the exact same thing," he said of the second surgery. "This time [rehabbing] was almost twice as long and boring.

"It was just repetitions and repetitions over and over again, that was the boring part about it. But I had a great year, I didn't have any problems with [the shoulder]. I had five or six days of rehab for six or seven months so I felt really prepared so it didn't give me any trouble the whole year."

It's never easy for any player to be out of the game with an injury, especially for nearly a year, but it is doubly the case for such a fiery competitor like Heathcott.

"For me anytime I'm off the field it drives me insane," he said flatly. "It sucked, there's really no better way to put it. I'm just tired of being injured.

"I mean the first three years -- it took me three years after getting signed to get the amount of games I should have had in a regular season. That was really just annoying more than anything.

"That was one of my big goals last year, play hard like I normally do but at the same time trying to be smart about it and try not to get hurt. Overall I stayed healthy the whole year so that was the biggest thing that helped me."

The numbers in his return were quite good; a .307 average, 23 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in just 65 games for the high-A Tampa Yankees.

"The year went really well numbers-wise and just mentally I think I found an approach that I want to stick with," he said. "I found out what I wanted to do at the plate and it went well."

He then followed it up with a sterling performance in the Arizona Fall League that saw him hit .388 for the Scottsdale Scorpions and for the first time seemingly in his career he was able to focus on actually improving his game rather than working his way back from an injury.

"I really haven't been in a situation where I can spend a whole lot of time in offseasons and things like that trying to get better, I've basically been trying to maintain," he admitted.

"The biggest thing before last year was I was fighting injuries -- by no means is that an excuse -- but it's nice to finally get in there and whether I succeed or fail it's because of me and nothing else. That's always nice. That's one of my biggest goals this coming year, just stay healthy and play hard."

He has been working on a couple of small things improving the timing in his load and also employing a better approach at the plate, one where he's not chasing balls in the dirt nearly as much and staying back on pitches better overall.

But not one to take anything for granted anymore, more than anything he's just very happy to finally be able to stay on the field long enough to improve his game.

"I haven't been able to start in January since --- shoot I don't even remember. I've definitely had a lot more time to start swinging and start getting into baseball shape so hopefully that will help this year being locked in, but we'll see.

"I'm very excited for me to get a full season in this year. For me to get 100, 120 games, whatever it is, that would be a really big deal for me to finally say I have done it," he said.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2012

Tampa

.307

215

16

5

27

38

17

20

66

.378

.470

2012

GCL Yankees

.235

17

2

0

2

3

2

5

4

.409

.353

2011

Tampa

.600

5

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

.600

1.200

2011

Charleston

.271

210

11

4

16

36

7

19

57

.342

.419

2010

Charleston

.258

298

16

2

30

48

15

42

101

.359

.352

2009

GCL Yankees

.100

10

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

.182

.100



Batting and Power. Heathcott's checkered injury history has worked against him in more than one way. Not only has he lost valuable development time but, as fierce a competitor as there is, there were times when he was on the field where he was pressing way too hard, seemingly trying to make up for lost time, and that would elongate his swing and step up his aggressiveness. He has shown in spurts, however, to sit back on his pitches, take what the pitchers give him, and use his plus bat speed to spray liners all over the field. Naturally strong too, he has above average power potential overall and even plus power to the pull side.

Base Running and Speed. Heathcott can also be very aggressive in the running game, almost too aggressive at times. While he has plus-plus speed, he'll have moments of indecision that gets him caught leaning off first base a little too often and unwisely picking spots to attempt stealing bases. Should he correct those issues, however, he easily has 40-plus stolen base potential.

Defense. He is an awesome defensive player and even after two shoulder surgeries his arm strength really has not been downgraded from the plus level. If there's one hiccup in his defensive game now it's the less than accurate throws he will occasionally make because the ball will sail on him, but that is correctable with more practice.

Projection. Heathcott is one of the most physically gifted players in all of baseball, even with his injury history, and that's including current big league players. He has plus-plus speed, plus arm strength, above average to borderline plus power potential, and the ability to be a good hitter for average should he develop a consistently patient approach at the plate. Throw in a high energy motor and all out hustle style of play, he's an absolute game-changer. Where the injuries might have benefited him is on the mental side of the game. Being on the bench has caused him to grow up a big quicker. His ceiling is that of a big league All Star player on both sides of the ball, he just needs to stay healthy and keep developing.

ETA. 2014. Heathcott is ready for Double-A Trenton in 2013 and should he put an entire full season together under his belt it's going to be extremely difficult to keep him out of 2014 big league outfield discussions for the Yankees.

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