Slade Heathcott, Outfielder
Ranked 10th Best Prospect
Slade Heathcott is a very difficult prospect to evaluate. Overall, he batted fairly poorly in his full season debut. There were some bright spots, which I’ll discuss in a second, but the performance on balance was lacking. On the other hand, Heathcott is a legitimate toolshed with lots of room for improvement. Because he has so much potential, analyzing Heathcott can lend to wishful thinking and confirmation biases. I’m very optimistic about him, but we should all be wary of those confirmation biases.
When he was drafted, Slade Heathcott was considered a project. He was a five-tool player with a questionable family situation (now basically erased as a question mark) and not a lot of polish. A year later, Heathcott is still a five-tool player without a lot of polish. He struck out a lot in his 76 game full-season debut – 101 strikeouts in just 76 games. On the other hand, he also took 42 walks over that period – a very strong rate. His power didn’t show up, but his overall hitting ability did. We heard reports all summer that Heathcott was hitting the ball hard, and his .385 BABIP and 16% line drive rate to some extent reflect that.
The raw material exists out there to create a very strong player. Scouts rave about his quick wrists and bat speed. He’s got the speed to play center field, a strong arm, and enough power to hit 15-25 home runs. And I don’t want to make too much from a half-season of play, but he’s also demonstrating a big ability to take walks and get on base. All told, Slade Heathcott could be an all-star center fielder in New York.
He has three big question marks to work through. First, he needs to cut down on the strikeouts. Given that no one has ever stated that his swing is long, there is a good chance that the strikeout rate is largely a function of poor pitch selection. If thats true, it is correctable. Second, his power needs to develop. While an ISO of .094 is not terrible for a 19 year-old, it isn’t desirable either. He’ll need to turn more singles into doubles and more doubles into home runs. He’ll need to do it while playing in the Florida State League, which is a pretty tall task. And finally, he needs to play a full season of baseball, and hold up to the physical rigor that playing every day for five months brings.
I want to see some progress. I’m not going to expect Heathcott to immediately turn into a slugger, but he needs to continue to develop his skills. Projects who don’t get better are just failed gambles. Look for more power (though it may come in the form of doubles and triples for now), fewer strikeouts, and a better stolen base rate.
At this point in his career, Heathcott deserves comparisons to Austin Jackson. All the tools exist for a great leap forward, but the breakout hasn’t yet come. Heathcott has a bit more power potential than Jackson, but is a similar caliber prospect. Jackson’s biggest weakness has always been his strikeout rate. Hopefully, Heathcott will overcome those problems better than Jackson did. While Jackson is arguably a better athlete, Heathcott has a lot more power potential, and fewer defensive question marks. He’s also exactly the kind of player the Yankees need right now – a high ceiling prospect who could be a key piece on a championship team. Just cross your fingers and hope the breakout comes.
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