[image title="Slade-Heathcott" size="full" id="14211" align="center" linkto="full" ]
The Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott six months ago and signed him four months ago. Very little news has happened in relation to Heathcott over this time period. We don’t have a lot more information to judge the young outfielder by other than what we knew at the draft. Still, I’d like to share some thoughts after six months of reflection. This isn’t meant to be a prospect profile, but more of an open-ended thought.
He’s a five-tool guy, and deserves that label. For his first few years in High School, Heathcott was often called one of the best athletes in Texas. That’s not a small honor – its not like being the best athlete in New Jersey. He was a star two-way athlete, playing both center field and pitcher. He hit like a monster, saw his fastball top out at 94 mph, showed great speed and instincts in the field, and generally showed no weaknesses in his game.
Had all else remained equal, Heathcott would probably be one of the top-5 high schoolers taken in the draft. He actually ended up being the 12th high school hitter taken in a fairly deep high school draft, but was rumored to be valued by most teams as a supplemental roud pick. For some reason, character issues have been deemed the cause of his drop by conventional wisdom, but the reality is that Heathcott fell due to injury concerns. He had to stop pitching due to shoulder issues, and had major ACL surgery a year ago. Heathcott’s performance didn’t suffer at the plate as a result, but the two injuries definitely scared a lot of people off. There were not a lot of teams rumored to be interested in drafting Heathcott in the first round other than the Yankees.
The first thought that I (and I’m sure a lot of other Yankee fans thought the same thing) had was “C.J. Henry”. Heathcott is the first position player picked in the first round by the Yankees since Henry quickly proved to be a colossal failure, and they don’t have much of a positive track record before him. We’ve heard some quotes from people that Heathcott is more than just an athlete with strong instincts on both sides of the ball – something that was never said about C.J. Henry. But besides that, they’re really very similar prospects: raw young athletes who possess the skills to be major stars, but enough question marks to drop to the Yankees.
We’ll probably see Heathcott playing center field for the Charleston Riverdogs when the season begins. A lot of people have speculated that his ultimate position will be right field, because his arm is so strong. However, I’m not sure if we should ultimately be banishing him to a corner outfield spot in our minds just yet. We’ve heard that he has the speed and instincts to man the position, at least while he is young. For now, I would consider him a center fielder.
With Austin Jackson gone and Jesus Montero on the way to the majors, there is a good chance that Heathcott will enter the 2011 season as the top Yankee prospect – position or otherwise – in the system. A lot of this is due to poor 1st round picks in recent years. Gerritt Cole didn’t sign, and Andrew Brackman’s saga has been flawed at best. The aformentioned C.J. Henry is playing college basketball, and Ian Kennedy is in Arizona.
As far as 1st round picks go, it would be refreshing to see the Yankees finally develop a big time hitter. We’re already hearing rumblings of an international draft being negotiated, (H/T RAB) which could cut off a huge source of Yankee young talent. Sooner or later, the team is going to have to learn to find players like Heathcott and turn them in to legitmate major league stars. Jesus Montero was a guy born to hit, but players like him are few and far between. The real backbone of any all-star team are guys like Heathcott – 5-tool mega athletes who could probably play football or basketball professionally: guys like Austin Jackson – whom the Yankees were mostly successful at teaching to play the hardest game to play in sports. It will be interesting to see what techniques the Yankees use to try and make the man a real ballplayer.
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