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Yankees Prospects No. 7: Zach "Slade" Heathcott

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Date/Location of Birth: September 28, 1990 in Texarkana, Arkansas

Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs.

Position: Centerfield

Bats: Left

What a time to have the report on Slade Heathcott due. First there was the report on his drinking and home problems, and now comes word that he initiated a brawl in last night's game against the Red Sox Low-A affiliate. Apparently he was hit by the second pitch of the game, then turned around and punched the catcher in the face. My question is: Was the mask still on?

Anyway...

When elite pitching prospect Gerrit Cole chose UCLA over the Yankees, the following year's draft pick was protected. No matter how many free agents the Yanks signed, they would still hold the 29th overall pick in 2009. It's a good thing, because that was the off-season in which CC, A.J. and Tex were all signed to big-money contracts.

Perhaps owning the coolest nickname in the system, Slade is a typical Yankees high-risk, high-reward selection. He showed supreme athleticism and speed in high school, but was downgraded due to injuries and (some of the aforementioned) off-the-field issues. He had ACL reconstruction surgery and has had problems with alcohol while his father had trouble with drugs and the law.

Heathcott is in his second go-round at Low-A Charleston, but is showing that he deserves a promotion. In 31 games, the 20-year-old has a batting line of .312/.392/.504. If he keeps it up, he'll spend the second half of the year at High-A Tampa. He's always shown good plate discipline/patience (.095 career Isolated Discipline), but the most encouraging part is the power. He's gone from a terrible SLG of .352 last year to .504 so far in 2011.

Though his 2010 batting line (.258/.359/.352) doesn't look special, his wRC+ of 105 means he was actually an above-average hitter that was depressed by the Sally league and his home park.

Heathcott's BB and K rates have both dropped from '10, so we can infer he's swinging earlier in the count. His BABIP is also extraordinarily high (.391) against a paltry 14% line-drive rate, which probably means he's been lucky. That said, his BABIP is not out of line with where it was last year (.385). This probably means he's beating out a fair number of infield hits with his blazing speed.

He played in a few Spring Training in 2010 and showed off his tools. I recall him beating out a routine grounder to shortstop and showing off a cannon for an arm (albeit the throw sailed into the backstop). He has Brett Gardner-esque speed but with a stronger arm and greater power potential. A comp for him, if he reaches his ceiling, is Grady Sizemore.

ETA: The Yankees have a club option on Curtis Granderson for $13M in 2013. If they don't pick it up, it'll likely be because of Heathcott. Hopefully he can conquer any off-the-field issues and not waste years of his career to alcohol abuse like players before him have done.

Sources -

Fack Youk

RAB

Bronx Banter