Name: Tucker Healy
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 210
How Acquired: Selected in the 23rd round of the 2012 amateur draft
The 2015 season was a rough one for the Oakland A's bullpen, but the group received a boost at the end of the season from rookie Ryan Dull. Fellow 2012 draft class mate Tucker Healy has had a similar development path to Dull. Can Healy follow in Dull's footsteps in 2016?
Since joining the A’s in 2012 out of Ithaca College, Healy has been nothing short of dominant – save for a six week period in Triple-A in 2014. Healy has a career K/9 of nearly 12 and a career ERA of 2.70. He has allowed only 10 homeruns in 193.2 career innings.
Healy began his pro career with short-season Vermont in 2012. He opened eyes when he struck-out 45 in 29.1 innings. In 2013, Healy firmly established himself as a legitimate prospect when he posted a 1.31 ERA and posted a 74:10 K:BB in 48 innings split between the A’s Low- and High-A affiliates. The only thing that prevented Healy from reaching Double-A during his first pro season was a late-season shoulder injury that cost him most of the month of August.
Tucker Healy Stats
Thanks to the time missed late in 2013, Healy returned to High-A at the start of 2014. It didn’t take him long to push his way to Double-A. In 17.1 innings for High-A Stockton, Healy allowed just two runs and he posted a 29:4 K:BB. Healy marched through Double-A in similarly dominant fashion, allowing five runs in 19.1 innings and posting a 29:6 K:BB.
Healy finished the 2014 season in Triple-A. It was then that Healy ran into the first significant speed bump of his career. In 24.1 innings, Healy allowed 22 runs. He struck-out more than a batter an inning (28) but walked 14 and allowed four homeruns.
When the A’s signed several veteran minor league free agent relievers the following off-season, the Triple-A spots for several A’s relievers who had had success in 2014 at the Double-A level evaporated. That included Healy, who spent the entire 2015 season with Midland despite his previous success at the level.
It isn’t uncommon to see players who are forced to repeat a level that they have previously had success at struggle the second time around. That wasn’t the case for Healy in 2015. Although he struck-out fewer than a batter an inning for the first time in his career, Healy had arguably his best season since turning pro. In 55.1 innings, Healy posted a 1.95 ERA and struck-out 53. Opposing batters hit only .195 against him and he didn’t allow a homerun. Healy did walk a career-high 25, but that was the only blip in an otherwise outstanding season. At one point, Healy didn’t allow a run for 22 straight appearances.
Oakland A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens says that while Healy’s strike-out totals were down in 2015, he was a much more complete pitcher.
“His fastball command is definitely up a notch,” Owens said. “His delivery is so deceptive he was able to race through Double-A [last year], but when he got to Triple-A, he did a good job, but he was able to see that the more advanced hitters were able to eliminate some of that deception.
“He worked on a few things with [Midland pitching coach John Wasdin] and went back to Double-A. He still has some deception in his delivery but his fastball command took a major step forward. He was able to attack both sides of the plate. His velocity was more consistently in that 92-93 range, where before he would touch it. He has a really good change-up. For him to take that next step, he still has to tighten up that breaking ball some, but he definitely – even though his strike-out rate went down – I believe he improved as a pitcher.”
Despite the high strike-out totals, Healy – like his 2012 draft classmate Dull – isn’t a classic power pitcher. His fastball can occasionally touch 94, but he sits in the low-90s. Hitters have a tough time picking the fastball up, however, and Healy is to locate the pitch well. He is a flyball pitcher but has been effective in keeping the ball in the park throughout his career. Healy has been effective against both righties and lefties during his minor league career. He has a solid change-up to go along with the improving breaking ball.
Former A’s minor league pitching coordinator Garvin Alston says that Healy’s improved breaking ball is going to be key for him in terms of taking the next step in his development.
“His issue has been having a consistent breaking ball,” Alston said. “He became a little bit more consistent with his breaking ball [this season], especially with strike one. That helped him tremendously. But his stuff is for real. There is no denying his fastball command and the action on his pitches and where he pitches from in his delivery. With that being said, I think that was more his understanding of who he is and why he needs to pitch the way he pitches that contributed to his success [in 2015].”
Because Healy doesn’t throw 95+ and because he is a bit old for a minor leaguer (he will turn 26 during the 2016 season), he has flown somewhat under-the-radar around the league. Healy recently went unprotected during the Rule 5 draft and wasn’t selected despite his minor league track record.
What was the rest of the league’s loss could be the A’s gain in 2016, as Healy could be ready to contribute to the A’s by midseason. He should get another shot in Triple-A, where he will be able to put his improved secondary offerings and his fastball command to the test. If he can conquer Triple-A, he could re-join Dull in the big leagues at some point in 2016.