Name: Slade Heathcott
DOB: September 28, 1990
Batting and Power. Heathcott is really unique for a couple of reasons. First, he's a much better hitter than his career .267 average to date reveals. Second, it is rather amazing he's had the success he's had thus far and shown the consistent natural hitting ability he has displayed considering how much development time he has lost over the years due to the numerous injuries. He still employs an advanced patient approach at the plate, solid pitch recognition, he has a really good idea of the strike zone, and knows when to be aggressive too. Throw in some really explosive plus bat speed and he has everything in place to be a high-average hitter someday. That special bat speed gives him long-term above average power potential too, especially to the pull-side, even though he isn't a huge physical specimen. He is very strong, however, and shows powerful quick-twitch wrists.
Base Running and Speed. There was a time when Heathcott could have been considered a plus-plus runner in his younger days and perhaps the three knee surgeries he's had over the years have caused him to lose a step but he still remains a plus runner overall speed-wise. However, he's always been a little erratic on the base paths, sometimes a little too aggressive taking the extra base and other times not nearly aggressive enough stealing bases. Even though he has the natural speed to easily be a 40-plus stolen base threat he is still very much a neophyte swiping bases. He still has a lot to learn reading pitchers' moves to limit the base running mistakes but his gaffes will have nothing to do with his top-notch speed.
Defense. Heathcott is a Gold Glove caliber defensive player at all three outfield positions, plain and simple. His plus speed gives him plus range, he shows innate instincts out in the field, and despite two shoulder surgeries he still possesses plus arm strength. He is a premium defensive centerfielder who can slide into the corners seamlessly too. About the only weaknesses in his defensive game are toning down his aggressive style of play in the name of staying healthy [he often times throws his body around with wreckless abandon to make every potential play] and making accurate throws; sometimes he'll overthrow people trying to make the incredible throw when the smarter play is just hitting his cut-off man. Still, few can match his physical defensive abilities so his occasional over-play is very forgiveable, especially when he plays all-out on every play.
Projection. Heathcott has long been one of the higher-ceiling prospects not just in the Yankee farm system but in all of baseball and it's because of his freakish athletic ability. With plus speed, plus defense, plus arm strength, above average power potential, and a natural feel for hitting he is a true five-tool player with not only the ceiling of a starting big league outfielder but one with real All Star potential. With his defensive outfield versatility and small-ball abilities he has the floor of a big league reserve outfielder. However, his tools are so special that he really should find a starting job at some point if he can stay healthy and that has been a dicey prospect to say the least. With five surgeries in his rearview mirror and other nagging injuries to date [he had a quad injury last season] he simply hasn't been able to stay on the field on any consistent level. If he can ever find consistent health there's no question he will be a difference-making player in every aspect of the game, especially with his all-out hustle and tireless work ethic. He just needs to stay healthy.
ETA. N/A. We mentioned a year ago that Heathcott, despite not being on the 40-man roster at the time, would see his first big league action last season if he stayed healthy and he did exactly that. The trade for Aaron Hicks this past offseason though has pushed Heathcott further down on the outfield depth chart for the time being so he is most likely destined for Triple-A Scranton again. However, he will most likely be just one injury away from contributing in the Bronx again in 2016. The Scranton-Bronx shuttle seems to be his most likely role this coming season.