Name: Ryon Healy
Height/Weight: 6’5’’, 205
How Acquired: Selected in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLB draft
It can be difficult to recover from a poor start, but Ryon Healy managed to put together a solid season in 2014 despite an April that had him putting up pitcher-like batting numbers.
The A’s 2013 third-round pick made the jump from short-season Vermont to High-A Stockton in 2014 despite a pro debut in 2013 that was far from dominant. The Oregon alum hit .233/.252/.384 in 36 games with the Lake Monsters, flashing some power (four homeruns) but not much else. The A’s weren’t put off by a rough couple of months, however. They knew what kind of hitter Healy was from his days at Oregon as one of the top right-handed hitters in the NCAA. They demonstrated their confidence in Healy with an aggressive promotion to High-A to start his first full professional season.
In the beginning, the assignment looked like a mistake – at least on paper. Healy collected just two hits the first seven games of the year and was batting .137 as late as April 22. However, those around the team knew that Healy was actually swinging the bat much better than his stat sheet would indicate. In fact, one source said Healy hit the ball harder in April than any other member of the Ports.
Healy’s batted balls started to find holes towards the end of April. From April 24-April 27, Healy ran off four straight games with at least two hits. From there, he began to pull his statline away from the Mendoza line. After batting .185/.231/.343 in April, Healy hit .278/.323/.391 in May, .353/.355/.539 in June, .291/.325/.470 in July and .328/.366/.414 in August. He finished the year with a .285/.318/.428 line. Healy hit 16 homers, 28 doubles and he drove-in 85.
“[I]t was pretty remarkable and impressive what he did,” former A’s minor league hitting coordinator and current A’s assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen said. “You try not to harp on specific numbers, but you can’t help to when you consider how, at least batting average-wise, he struggled earlier on in the season. It didn’t necessarily mean that he wasn’t hitting balls hard. It was just that his batting average didn’t reflect at that time how he was hitting the ball. Over the course of the season, he was able to maintain and persevere and keep staying after it.
“That’s a credit to Ryon and a credit to [Stockton hitting coach] Brian McArn for staying after it and keeping him positive and keeping him focused. It’s very easy to lose yourself, especially if you get caught-up in numbers and don’t see the bigger picture. What he was able to do was pretty impressive to turn the season around.”
Healy showed an aggressive approach at the plate during his first full pro season. He struck-out in only 13.2% of his at-bats, more than 7% less than league average, but he also walked half as often as the league average. Being more selective may allow Healy to drive more of the balls he does hit. He has the build (6’5’’, 205) and the loft in his swing to be a significant homerun hitter as he matures, but his approach will likely need to improve to tap that potential fully. Healy has also struggled against left-handed pitchers since turning pro, and that has hurt his overall numbers. Given that he is a right-handed hitter, he is likely to improve versus lefties over time. Currently, Healy has a similar offensive profile to fellow A's prospect Josh Whitaker, although Healy is likely to reach Double-A at an earlier age than Whitaker did.
Defensively, Healy split the season between first base, third base and DH. With fellow top prospects Renato Nunez and Matt Olson on the same roster, Healy DH’d in almost half of the games he played in. That isn’t a reflection of his defensive abilities, however. Healy is already an above-average defensive first baseman. He moves around the bag well and has soft hands and good instincts at first. At third, Healy showed some inexperience (he played more first than third in college), but he also flashed a strong arm and decent range. He should continue to see time at both positions in 2015.
After his solid 2014 season, Healy, 23, should move up to Double-A in 2015. He will continue to share playing time with Nunez and Olson but could get more time at first base this year if Olson sees time in right field. The winds of the Texas League could present a challenge for the contact-oriented Healy, but if he is able to add more selectivity at the plate, he could be in for an excellent season.