Scouting Mets' Prospect #22: Aaron Heilman

The New York Mets drafted Aaron Heilman in the first round of the 2001 draft out of the University of Notre Dame. Despite a rough 19 games with the Mets the last two years, Heilman has had some good success in the minors. Ranking #22 among the Top 50 Mets' Prospects, here's a scouting report on Aaron Heilman.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Aaron Heilman
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: November 12, 1978
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Aaron Heilman grew up in Indiana as one of the nation's top pitching prospects while playing for Logansport High School, including a 17-strikeout performance his freshman year. Heilman helped lead Logansport to a regional title as a sophomore and then again as a junior, going 10-3 with two saves and a 0.98 ERA. As good as his first three years were in high school, Heilman was named the top pitching prospect in the state of Indiana his senior year by Baseball America after going 11-1 with a 1.06 ERA and earning team MVP honors and an All-State selection. Heilman then committed to pitch for the University of Notre Dame.

It didn't take Heilman long to make his mark with the Fighting Irish. Used primarily as a reliever his freshman year, Heilman went 7-3 with 9 saves. His 1.61 ERA led the entire collegiate level and was named Co-Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Magazine and Baseball America (along with Xavier Nady). Heilman was moved to the rotation in 1999 and went 11-2 with a 3.14 ERA and continued to earn the praises around the country. He was named Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2000 as a junior after going 10-2 with a 3.23 ERA and was promptly selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round of the 2000 draft but did not sign, opting to return to Notre Dame for his senior year. As a senior, Heilman once again earned Big East Pitcher of the Year honors on the strength of "perfect" season. Heilman went a perfect 15-0 in 15 starts for the Fighting Irish. His 1.74 ERA ranked sixth in the country as he notched 12 complete games his senior year. Over his entire collegiate career, Heilman went 43-7 with a 2.49 ERA and was named First-Team All-American all four years while pitching for Notre Dame before being selected in the first round (18th overall) of the 2001 draft by the Mets. Heilman is one of 15 pitchers in Division I history to amass a minimum of 40 victories.

Signing in July of 2001, Heilman made his professional debut in the Florida State League with the St. Lucie Mets and went 0-1 despite pitching well in his first seven starts. Heilman began the 2002 season in the AA-Easter League with the Binghamton Mets and pitched pretty well, averaging better than one strike out per inning for the B-Mets, before earning a promotion later in the year to AAA-Norfolk. He finished the 2002 strong for the Tides, going 2-3 with a 3.28 ERA in ten games. Heilman was sent back to Norfolk to begin the 2003 season and started the year strong, going 3-0 in his first three starts. Heilman ranked ninth in the International League with a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts and was called up to the Mets later in the year to make his professional debut against the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium on July 26th. He lost his debut 6-1 and finished the year with the Mets with a 2-7 record and a 6.75 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).

Considered a front-runner for the fifth starter's spot with the Mets in Spring Training last season, the Mets sent Heilman back for a third season with the Tides last April. Heilman did not respond well to losing out in the race for the #5 spot with the Mets, going 1-8 in his first 16 starts for the Tides last season with a dreadful 5.12 ERA. With his season, and seemingly his career on the line, Heilman rebounded in his final ten starts for Norfolk by going 6-2 with a 3.52 ERA before finishing out the 2004 season with another less than stellar performance with the Mets after a September call up to the Majors.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2004

Norfolk

7-10

151.2

156

66

123

4.33

2003

Norfolk

6-4

94.1

99

32

71

3.24

2002

Norfolk

2-3

49.1

42

16

35

3.28

2002

Binghamton

4-4

96.2

85

28

97

3.82

2001

St. Lucie

0-1

38.0

26

13

39

2.37


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Splitter, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Heilman throws a 4-seam fastball that sits in the 90-93 MPH range and can top it off at 95 MPH at times. He has excellent movement on his fastball. He can run it from right to left and it has good sinking action.

Other Pitches. Heilman throws a splitter that serves as his out pitch. He has developed a good circle changeup and a decent slider, but runs into trouble on the mound with inconsistent command of those two pitches.

Pitching. Heilman has two plus pitches with his fastball and his splitter. He is able to spot both pitches with great command. Heilman sets up opposing batters very well and is often ahead in the count, keeping hitters off balance. When his slider is on, Heilman is a very different pitcher, dominating at times. He is a big guy and is very durable. As evident through his 26 career complete games at Notre Dame, Heilman is a workhorse and a big-time innings eater.

Projection. As is the case with most young pitchers, it all boils down to command of the breaking stuff as to what type of pitcher one projects to be. With his current stuff, command, and pitching, Heilman projects to be a very solid #3 or #4 pitcher for the Mets. If he could ever gain consistency with his slider and changeup, Heilman has the goods to be even better. Right now Heilman has the look of a stalwart in the rotation that will be able to get a team to the seventh inning and hand things off to the bullpen. He projects to be a Steve Trachsel type at the Major League level.

ETA. 2006. Like his Norfolk teammate Craig Brazell, Heilman seems to have fallen out of the Mets' favor. His lack of production (3-10, 6.36 ERA in 18 Major League starts) with the Mets has not aided his cause thus far. Heilman may need a change of scenery in another organization if he's to realize his dream of remaining on a Major League roster. All Heilman needs is for the Mets (or some other team) to show some patience and keep him from looking over his shoulder should he have a bad outing. He needs a team to give him 30 starts to see what he can do. As his 2004 season at Norfolk shows, he has the ability to make the adjustments. The question is will the Mets be the team to allow him that opportunity? As it stands right now, Heilman will be back in the Norfolk rotation in 2005 and he and Keppel will most likely be the first ones called upon to be spot starters for the Mets next year. If Heilman is not going to be given a full shot at the Mets' rotation in 2006, he should be moved.

Starting Pitchers

2004 Team

Aaron Heilman

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Bob Keppel

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Neal Musser AA - Binghamton Mets
Brian Bannister AA - Binghamton Mets
Yusmeiro Petit AA - Binghamton Mets
Miguel Pinanago A - St. Lucie Mets
Kevin Deaton A - St. Lucie Mets
Matthew Lindstrom A - Capital City Bombers
Vincent Cordova A - Capital City Bombers
Greg Ramirez A - Capital City Bombers
Evan MacLane A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Scott Hyde A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Michael Devaney A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Joseph Williams A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Mike Swindell A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Gaby Hernandez R - GCL Mets


Comments

The Mets have some good pitching prospects and the system's depth is only going to get better with the additions of Alay Soler, Matt Durkin, and Philip Humber. Considering they have not pitched a professional inning in the Mets system as of yet, we'll focus on the pitchers that have. Among the Mets' pitching prospects, Yusmeiro Petit and Gaby Hernandez seem to have the highest ceilings simply because of their age and talent. However, the Mets do have a number of other good pitching prospects that still have time on their side to make their mark. The following starting pitchers are currently in our Tier One group...the top starting pitching prospects in the Mets system.

1) Aaron Heilman - Heilman struggled out of the gate in 2004 but was perhaps the hottest pitcher in the entire Mets' system the second half of the year. All Heilman needs is a chance. Give the guy 30 starts and see what he can do. But that day may never come with the Mets as he appears to be in New York's doghouse. It's a shame too. He's a better pitcher than people think.

2) Bob Keppel - Like Heilman, Keppel struggled mightily to begin the 2004 campaign but finished the year strong. Keppel's always had the repertoire and pitching ability to become a Major League starter. The question has been his strikeout rate. Still only 22 years old and seems forgotten.

3) Neal Musser - With the trade of Scott Kazmir, Musser becomes the Mets' best left-handed starting pitching prospect. A top prospect a couple of years ago, Musser was beset with injuries and had a bounce back year in 2004. Musser is still only 24 years old and should not be forgotten.

4) Brian Bannister - His stats do not accurately portray how good a pitcher he is. Bannister has four plus pitches in his repertoire and has the chance to be a front-line starter someday. Remember, Bannister has only been pitching for 4 seasons...two in college, two in the pros. So as good as he is, he is still learning which is a scary thought.

5) Yusmeiro Petit - The Mets #1 pitching prospect the minute the Mets traded Kazmir. Forget about the pundits and all their talk about lack of "stuff". Petit knows how to pitch at such a young age (19). Drawing comparisons to Greg Maddux, Petit has the ability to change speeds on his fastball and is very deceptive on the mound. Bottom line is he's been baffling hitters from the word go.

6) Miguel Pinango - Pinango was cruising through the Mets system until an injury in St. Lucie ended his season in 2004 after just three starts. Pinango's command is superb. Only Petit's command is perhaps better and even that's not a lock. Still only 21 years old (he'll be 22 by the start of next season), Pinango is still a very good pitching prospect for the Mets.

7) Kevin Deaton - Growing up as an offensive lineman, Deaton is an imposing figure on the mound. Like Pinango, Deaton's rise through the system hit a speed bump in 2004 when he was plagued by injury (tendonitis). His fastball tops off at 94 MPH with solid movement and is still only 23 years old.

8) Matthew Lindstrom - Nobody throws as hard as Lindstrom does in the Mets' organization...nobody! Lindstrom is a fascinating talent that is getting a chance to showcase his stuff in the Arizona Fall League this year. With a fastball that regularly sits in the 94-96 MPH range, he can top it off at 100 MPH at times. Used primarily as a starter up to this point, his future seems to be in the bullpen...possibly as a closer.

9) Vincent Cordova - Cordova has the talent to be a very good pitching prospect for the Mets. Drafted out of college in 2003, Cordova needs to prove he can get hitters out at the higher level. Like Pinango and Petit, Cordova's success is predicated on his control. He's a Tier One prospect for now but time is not on his side.

10) Greg Ramirez - Used as both a starter and a relieve in his short career thus far, Ramirez is like Cordova. He has the talent and the stuff to be a Tier One pitching prospect for the Mets, but like Cordova, he's going to have to prove it at the higher levels to remain in this group. It's unclear how he will be used in the future.

11) Evan MacLane - MacLane gives the Mets' pitching in their farm system they seriously lack: quality left-handed pitching among their starting pitching prospects. MacLane was dominating South Atlantic League hitters in 2004 before being sent to Brooklyn where he had the same success. MacLane should be challenged in 2005 and will most likely be part of the St. Lucie staff. Like Ramirez, Cordova, Petit, and Pinango, MacLane is all about the control. He has great command of his pitches.

12) Scott Hyde - Hyde was not scheduled to pitch in live games this past season after being drafted but still managed to showcase some good pitching in his stint with the Cyclones. Hyde has the chance to be the "sleeper" among the Mets' 2004 draft picks.

13) Michael Devaney - Among the NY-Penn League leaders in ERA, Devaney is very solid. As is the case with most of the Cyclones' rotation, he'll have to duplicate the same success at the higher levels to remain in the Tier One level of starting pitching prospects.

14) Joseph Williams - Like Devaney, it's hard to dispute the success Williams had in Brooklyn this past season. The fact that he's a lefty aids his chances to be challenged quickly in the Mets' farm system.

15) Mike Swindell - Another college arm that was drafted in 2004 that will have to quickly prove he can become a solid starting pitching prospect for the Mets.

16) Gaby Hernandez - The Mets' third round pick in 2004, right now, Hernandez appears to be second behind Petit with the highest upside among the starting pitching prospects. It's too early to tell, but Hernandez has the talent to duplicate Petit's fast track through the minors.

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