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Yankees prospects: Slade Heathcott's last chance

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Once considered among the Yankees' top prospects only a few seasons ago, Slade Heathcott has had a tough few years and now he's at the end of the line. In 2014, he underwent surgery yet again and was designated for assignment to get him off the roster and out of the way. He seems to be healthy now and if he ever wants a shot in the majors, this will be his last best chance.

Continuous injuries and surgeries over the first four years of his career led to a career-high of 76 games from back in 2010 when he was just 19 years old. After making it to 103 games during his 2013 season in Trenton he was finally added to the 40-man roster, but soon had knee surgery in the offseason. Heading into 2014, Slade was kind of a mess and it only got worse when he needed a second surgery and missed all but nine games of the season. After the season he was designated for assignment and re-signed to a minor league deal, but it was already a kiss of death for his major league hopes. Now Heathcott is already 24 years old and has zero track record for staying healthy.

If this is his last chance, however, he's surely started it on the right foot. This spring he's hit .333/.440/.619 in 15 games and has looked healthy and strong in the field. If he can stay that way (huge if) he could have a big year and finally reach Triple-A at some point in the season. He has a lot of competition with Jake Cave, Aaron Judge, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Ben Gamel, Ramon Flores, Jose Pirela, and Taylor Dugas all vying for spots in the Double-A or Triple-A outfields, so it won't exactly be an easy thing, but if he performs, it won't be impossible.

This is Slade's last season in the organization before he's eligible for minor league free agency in 2016, so if the Yankees have any interest in him they'll have to find space for him on the 40-man roster in order to keep him around. Right now there is a total of six outfielders on the roster, so short of a trade involving someone, it doesn't look like they'll be bending over backwards to add him. It's certainly possible that they could re-sign him after he elects free agency, but there's no guarantee that happens and it's rare that another organization will value a fringe prospect more than the organization who drafted him in the first place (unless it's the Atlanta Braves).

This is Slade Heathcott's last shot, and it isn't a very good one. ZiPS currently projects him to be a replacement-level player if he were to make it to the majors this season, so he's not exactly something the Yankees need at this point. The 2009 MLB Draft has already bore fruit for the Yankees in a number of ways as John Ryan Murphy, Adam Warren, Shane Greene, and Bryan Mitchell were all taken that year. It would be nice to see something come out of their first round pick too, but it's not exactly a necessity anymore. Prospects don't work out all the time and with the way the system is heading, it's likely that they see this as moving on rather than another failure.