Name: Ryon Healy
Height/Weight: 6’5’’, 225
How Acquired: Selected in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft
Often overshadowed by fellow corner infielders Matt Olson and Renato Nunez, Ryon Healy remains one of the most underappreciated prospects in the Oakland A’s system. The Oregon alum has one of the best hit tools in the A’s system. If he can tap into his raw strength to increase his power numbers, Healy may surprise a lot of people in 2016 and beyond.
The A’s grabbed Healy with their fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. That draft class (especially in the early rounds) is shaping up to be a strong one for the A’s, as Healy was preceded in that draft by Billy McKinney, Dillon Overton and Chad Pinder, all significant prospects in their own right. Healy had a productive three-year career at Oregon before coming to the A’s, but it was his junior season that really stood out. He hit .333 in 59 games for the Ducks that year and mashed 11 homeruns while striking out just 24 times (and walking 28 times).
Healy was primarily a first baseman at Oregon, but the A’s had seen him play third base and believed he would be a possible asset at that position, as well. He played the majority of his innings at third during his professional debut season in 2013, but in 2014, Healy found himself moving between third, first and DH, as the A’s tried to split up the playing time between Healy and fellow corner infielders Olson and Nunez.
Ryon Healy stats
At the plate, Healy had to overcome a very slow start with the Stockton Ports in 2014. He hit just .185 in April despite making solid contact. The hits began to fall more regularly after that month, however, and Healy posted batting averages of .278 or higher every month after April. He would finish his 2014 season in the Cal League with a .285/.318/.428 line and 16 homers in 561 at-bats. Healy didn’t walk much with Stockton (28), but he struck-out just 79 times, a low total in a league that often produces high strike-out numbers, especially from middle-of-the-order hitters.
Healy moved up to Double-A in 2015 along with Olson and Nunez. He continued to share time with both at first and third, while also logging time at DH. Offensively, Healy continued to impress, especially as the season went on. During the first half of the year, Healy hit .274/.324/.383, but he really took off after the All-Star break, batting .355 with an 891 OPS in 50 games.
Healy isn’t a typical Oakland A’s prospect in many ways. He has never been a patient hitter, as evidenced by his 63 walks in 307 career games. However, he has an excellent feel for the barrel of the bat, putting the ball in play at a high rate. He has just 189 strike-outs in his career. Healy tried to be more patient early in the season in 2015, but when he went back to his more naturally aggressive approach, he found a lot more success.
Healy has the build of a middle linebacker, but he has yet to put up the power numbers one would expect from looking at his body type. His swing is short, which produces plenty of line-drives. His swing is also fairly flat at the moment. If he can add some arc to that swing without losing how short he is to the ball, Healy could blossom into a .300-hitter with 20-homer potential.
“He has always been an advanced hitter. He started off slowly in Stockton in his first professional season, but if you take what he did during the second half in Stockton and move that forward to the 2015 Texas League, he is a line-drive machine,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. “He is a big man. He has an all-field approach and he is going to have more power in the future. He is a really good hitter. He has a chance to get better. His swing is really short.”
Until the 2015 season, Healy – a right-handed hitter – had always hit right-handers better than lefties, but he had significantly better splits against southpaws in 2015 (.351/.369/.485 against lefties; .284/.329/.405 against righties). If he can continue to find success against left-handed pitchers, Healy could fill a role with the A’s similar to the one that Olmedo Saenz held with the A’s in the late 1990s. Like Healy, Saenz was a line-drive hitter in the minor leagues who made a lot of contact, didn’t walk a lot and saw his power develop later in his career. Coincidentally, Saenz spent his age-24 season with Triple-A Nashville, where Healy is likely to play in 2016 in his age 24 season.
Defensively, Healy is more advanced as a first baseman than he is as a third baseman, but he has made strides at the hot corner over the past two seasons. He has a strong throwing arm and is agile for a man his size. Healy could also see some time in right field in the future. He isn’t likely to win any Gold Gloves in the outfield, but Healy’s arm strength and general baseball smarts should make him passable there. Given the number of prospects the A’s have in the upper levels of their system that play first or third, Healy would benefit from adding another position to his resume.
The A’s will have a bit of a puzzle to put together this spring as they try to find at-bats for Healy, Nunez, Olson, Rangel Ravelo and Max Muncy in Triple-A. It is possible that one of those players starts the year in Double-A just to get regular at-bats, but it is more likely that all will be on the Sounds’ roster filling a variety of roles to start the year.