Here's some interesting news about outfield prospect Slade Heathcott on a quiet Thursday night from YES Network analyst Jack Curry:
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees scouting director, said Heathcott is "impact player." If Heathcott progresses, he could play in New York in 2013.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) January 4, 2013
Regarding Heathcott, Yankees would have to fast track him (which they don't often do). But Oppenheimer said he could play in NY this season.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) January 4, 2013
Wow, that was... a little surprising, especially for a team that sure drags its feet in getting good prospects to the big leagues when they're ready. Partially due to multiple shoulder surgeries, the 22-year-old lefthanded hitter has not yet played above high-A Tampa in a little over three years in the Yankees' system, but apparently the team thinks very highly of him. Another tweet from Curry said that the Yanks "love his intensity," and his strong Arizona Fall League showing this year (.388/.494/.612 in 18 games with one scout calling him the league's best player and "a stronger version of Todd Hollandsworth").
It took Heathcott awhile to make it to active duty last year, but he looked quite good in high-A Tampa, hitting .307/.378/.470 with 16 doubles, 17 stolen bases, and a 142 wRC+ in 60 games there. He was almost exclusively a DH while he fully recovered, but once fellow top prospect center fielder Mason Williams was lost for the season with a torn left labrum, Heathcott played in center (his natural position). He's hit well at every level when healthy, so it's unsurprising that he will probably begin the season in AA Trenton. Heathcott would have to play quite well at two new levels to make it up to the Show in 2013, but if Oppenheimer says it's possible, then why not? The kid's gone through some personal problems ranging from alcoholism to a dysfunctional family that once invaded this very SBN site, but we're all hoping he can break through the system. The Yankees have produced approximately two homegrown position players since Jorge Posada: Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Go Slade. Go Mason. Go Tyler Austin. Go Gary Sanchez. Bring on a new era!
Curry also noted that relief prospect Mark Montgomery continues to destroy all competition he faces and, like Heathcott, could make it to New York this season. This idea is much more likely to me since the 2011 draft pick has used his "really sick swing and miss slider" to blaze through the minors. He split last year between high-A Tampa and AA Trenton and actually improved upon his already-ridiculous minor league statistics in the "harder competition," albeit in only 24 innings.
Regardless, after 72 games and 92.2 innings in the minors, Montgomery has a 1.65 ERA, a 14.6 K/9, and a 0.971 WHIP. His control's improving as well, as Curry reported he had only 27 walks in 74.2 innings this year with Tampa, Trenton, and the AFL. If that's not promising, then I don't know what is. As David Robertson proved, the Yankees do not waste time moving talented relievers through the ranks, so it is very possible that perhaps an even better relief prospect than D-Rob could do the same in 2013.
It is, of course, possible (as some people suggested) that Oppenheimer was just using Curry as a mouthpiece to spice up some of the Yankees' better prospects for potential trade bait. That would make sense. Time will only tell though.
Bonus: Curry get extra points for somehow trying to reason with some guy who, like several of Curry's Hall of Fame voter colleagues (sadly), wants to rule Mike Piazza out for Hall consideration simply because of "his build." A friendly reminder: 5'10", 150 pound infielder Manny Alexander used steroids. "Build" is not a reason, nitwits.