Scouting Yankees Prospect #23: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. One of the toolsiest players not only in the Yankee farm system but in all of baseball, his biggest obstacle has been avoiding the training room and staying healthy long enough on the field to get his repetitions, as evidenced by missing most of the 2014 season.

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

He had a second knee surgery in September of 2013 after having a career season that saw him set new highs in doubles [22], triples [7], home runs [8], run scored [59], RBIs [49], and perhaps most importantly at-bats [399] with Double-A Trenton.

He attempted to rehab his way back in time for Spring Training last season but re-injured the knee before he could ever get started up again, however, and spent the first two months on the disabled list. He made his season debut last year in mid-May but lasted just nine games, hitting just .182, before being shelved for good.

"It never got better," Heathcott admitted. "We did what we did, the rehab. I just had to give it a shot but it never felt like it was back to normal. It just wasn't the right procedure and things didn't go the way we had planned so I had it done again. We looked at it again [and] had another procedure done."

He had a third career knee surgery in late June that ended his season all together and he spent the ensuing months rehabbing his way back in an attempt to be completely healthy for the upcoming 2015 campaign.

His incredible tools and high level skill set are widely known around baseball ever since he was selected nearly six years ago in the first round. However, the fact is after five surgeries [two on his shoulder and three on his knees] he is unfortunately better known as a player who simply can't stay healthy.

"The five years I've been playing I've had what, four or five surgeries now, and I've never been injured in a game," he noted. "That's something I'm kind of trying to sort through because I want to stay on the field this year, figure out how to play and not get hurt doing training and things like that."

"It's a real shame," one National League scout said. "I think we're all waiting to see what this guy can do if he can ever stay healthy and for now we're all just waiting to see if that will ever happen.

"Perhaps the biggest compliment I can say about him and yet maybe the most damning thing that can be said about him too is that there's nothing he can do that would be at all surprising.

"He could hit .300 and I wouldn't be surprised. He could hit twenty home runs or steal 50 bases and I know I wouldn't be surprised. He could miss an entire season too and I don't think anybody would be surprised either."

Heathcott has shown at various times throughout his career to be a true impact player on both sides of the ball but it has never been on any sustained level. Folks around baseball are just hoping he gets an opportunity to do that at some point down the road.

"It will be one of the biggest shames if he can't stay healthy," an American League scout concurred. "The game needs exciting players like him and it would be a colossal shame if he's never able to show people the kind of talent he possesses.

"Unfortunately he's at the point where everyone is just hoping he doesn't sustain another injury. You just keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best."


Batting and Power. Considering all of the significant development time Heathcott has missed over the years it is pretty impressive how advanced his patience and pitch recognition remain. He has a very good idea of the strike zone and he's willing to sit on his pitch for the most part when he's not trying to rush out of the batter's box. He has the ability to be a .300 hitter when he maintains that overall patient approach and doesn't try to force the issue. He also has explosive bat speed too so while he isn't the biggest guy he can put a real charge into the ball. He shows above average power potential, especially to the pull side.

Base Running and Speed. What is even more amazing is that after three knee surgeries Heathcott still remains a plus runner speed-wise. He is a top notch station to station runner but one of the real tragedies from his lost development time is he's never really been able to work on honing his base stealing abilities. He can still be wildly erratic in his base stealing decisions so despite having one of the best first burst jumps around he is still a neophyte at reading pitchers' moves and will therefore get caught a bit more often than his unique speed suggests he should; he could easily steal 40-plus bases in a season and yet still get caught stealing way too often.

Defense. Heathcott has all the physical tools to be a plus defensive player in centerfield; plus range, good instincts, and despite two shoulder surgeries he still possesses plus arm strength. While he still has a cannon for an arm the lost development time has affected his accuracy somewhat. There is still plenty of room for improvement in that aspect of his defensive game. He'll make the occasional gaffe overthrowing people but overall he has Gold Glove defensive abilities at all three outfield positions.

Projection. With downright freakish athletic ability, Heathcott has always had and still possesses one of the highest ceilings in the entire farm system. With plus bat speed, plus running speed, plus arm strength and defensive abilities, and above average power potential, few professional players are as physically gifted as Heathcott and it's a testament to his hard work that he remains so physically gifted after five significant surgeries, and it proves his mental makeup continues to grow. He projects as a more powerful, speedier, and athletic version of Brett Gardner ceiling-wise, but the question has been and still remains whether or not he can remain healthy long enough to prove it on the field. He will continue to be inconsistent at times until that point comes, if it ever does.

ETA. 2015. Heathcott is no longer on the 40-man roster after re-signing as a minor league free agent this offseason. Still, this upcoming season will be a do or die situation for him in his Yankee career. If he remains healthy he should see his first big league action this season no matter where he begins the year. He could start back in Double-A Trenton or even up in Triple-A, and if he remains healthy he will be on the short list of potential in-house outfield candidates should the need arise.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2014

Trenton

.182

33

2

0

1

4

0

3

13

.250

.242

2013

Trenton

.261

399

22

8

49

59

15

36

107

.327

.411

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




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