Scouting Yankees Prospect #5: Slade Heathcott

Heathcott went deep in his only game in Tampa

The New York Yankees selected outfielder Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 MLB out of Texas High School in Texas. A true five-tool talent, his development has been slowed over his first two professional seasons by injuries to his knee and shoulder, the latter being the culprit once again in cutting his 2011 season short.

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

What was essentially his professional debut season in 2010 was cut short by a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery, but he bounced back in a huge way to start the 2011 season in his return trip to low-A Charleston.

Seemingly finally healthy, he terrorized South Atlantic League pitching to the tune of a .370 average and 15 extra-base hits in his first 20 games with the RiverDogs in 2011. However, he had just four more extra-base hits in his next 32 games in Charleston, hitting just .209 during that stretch.

And though he was given a mid-season to promotion to Tampa and did collect a three-hit game with a home run in his Florida State League debut, he realized the pain in his surgically repaired shoulder was only getting worse.

"I started out and I was feeling good," Heathcott told PinstripesPlus.com right before his second season-ending shoulder injury. "I had shoulder surgery six months prior [to my Tampa promotion] and I was going well.

"Everything went well for the first month and half and I tried going out every day not trying to think of the highs and lows by finding an equal balance."

The pain just continued to get worse with each passing day from the very start of the season and it was once again a major factor in his rapidly declining numbers.

"There was a mixture of several things," Heathcott said. "Being mentally strong enough to know what my approach needs to be and not getting away from it was a problem, but not to make any excuses but I had some shoulder pain following through on my swing but it was a combination of some little things."

All signs this offseason points towards Heathcott recovering well from his second shoulder surgery and he should be ready for the 2012 season. While it would be easy for some to give up a young player who has had three surgeries since being drafted [one knee surgery, two shoulder surgeries], it is tough to do so given him immense potential.

"I think it is," former Texas Rangers scout and current Fox Sports baseball analyst Frankie Piliere said. "We need to see if he can put together a full season and stay on the field for a full season of games, and see exactly what we're looking at.

"He has shown outstanding flashes when he's been able to put together a hot streak and stay on the field for any length of time, but it's hard to know until he does that."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

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



Batting and Power. Heathcott is almost two different hitters when he has been healthy enough to play. He's a plus hitter when he uses his short, compact swing and drives the ball to all fields, but other times he gets a little tight in the batter's box, his swing gets long, swings under pitches too often, and he can pile up strikeouts when he's pressing. He is a naturally patient hitter who can draw walks but sometimes he will get too passive earlier in counts and then finds himself in bad hitting situations. As expected for a young hitter battling injuries, he is inconsistent with the bat and approach but the natural talent is there to be a high-average hitter. He has above average power potential to all fields and he can have monstrous power to the pull side at times.

Base Running and Speed. Heathcott is extremely fast and projects to be a plus runner in due time, but still raw in the running game, he has been prone to getting picked off first base too often when leaning the wrong way. He is very aggressive running the bases, sometimes to a fault, but he should get more consistent overall as he continues to gain experience.

Defense. It's because of his great speed that makes Heathcott an elite defensive centerfielder. Blessed with amazing arm strength too, how he responds to two shoulder surgeries is a wait and see proposition for now. He has natural Gold Glove caliber defensive abilities.

Projection. In true ironic fashion given his injury history in the early going, Heathcott is a bit of a freak with amazing physical tools and overall athleticism. With borderline plus power, plus arm strength, plus speed, and at times proven to swing a plus bat, there's little he can't do on a baseball field. Throw in his ultra-competitive drive, he has what it takes to be a difference maker in every phase of the game. However, the fact is his injuries are becoming a big problem because he can't stay on the field long enough to further develop the consistencies needed to maximize his tools. If he can remain healthy and start getting that much needed development time, he has the chance to develop into a big league All Star type talent on both sides of the ball.

ETA. 2014. All early reports suggest that he should be close to ready for the start of the 2012 season. He'll most likely break camp with the Tampa Yankees and as he's proven in stints, he has the talent to string together some incredible hot stretches and move quickly up the ladder. For him it's all about staying healthy at this point.

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