Prospect Profile: Slade Heathcott
Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 195
Signed 1st Round 2009 Draft
Slade made his very brief debut in the GCL for a handful of AB’s, and then moved on to SI in 2010 where he put up a .258/.359/.352/.712 quad slash over 298 AB’s, good for a .335 wOBA and 108 wRC+. He worked 42 walks, struck out 101 times and stole 15 bases in 25 attempts. He also assaulted a catcher after a HBP, a move that sparked the blogosphere to revisit his past. Slade injured his shoulder that year and underwent his first of two shoulder surgeries to repair the damage. He returned to Charleston in 2011 and hit .271/.342/.419/.761 (.346 wOBA, 110 wRC+) working 19 walks and striking out 57 times. His base stealing sunk even further, getting caught in 7 of 13 attempts. Slade saw a promotion to Tampa mid season, but played one game and ended up back under the knife for his shoulder. After two years of injury laden baseball, Slade broke out in 2012. After a delayed start to the season due to a cautious bout of rehab, Slade appeared in the FSL and hit .307/.378/.470/.848, a .389 wOBA and 142 wRC+. He worked 20 walks and struck out 66 times. His base stealing improved dramatically, stealing 17 of 21 bags. After an abbreviated stint in regular season ball the Yanks sent Slade to Arizona to play in the Fall Leagues. Slade went postal, putting up a .388/.494/.612/.1.106 quad slash, good for a .499 wOBA and 192 wRC+ over 67 AB’s. Not only did he tear the cover off the ball, but he put up a near 1:1 K/BB ratio (14/12) and stole 5 bags in 8 attempts. The performance got him ranked 6th best in the league, with at least one evaluator giving him top honors.
Slade has quick strong hands and exceptional bat speed. He’s able to pull his hands in on inside pitches and hit them with authority. He can also extend on outside pitches, covering the outer half of the plate. Line drive hitter that can spray the ball to all fields. Has had a tendency to press in the batters box, possibly due to his lost time from injuries and tries to make up for it by rushing himself at the plate. He can also get overly aggressive making his swing longer than it needs to be. Pitch recognition needs work as well, and his K rate north of 22% indicates just that. His numbers in the AFL saw a bit of a turnaround in the patience department; Slade spoke about his altered approach in the fall leagues during a YES interview, and if he can keep it up it will mean a big step forward in his hitting.
Slade’s hitting all around has come around and that includes the power department. He has the strength to turn on the inside pitch and drive the ball, and what has been power to the gaps could lead to balls leaving the park. Some of that will depend on him being able to pick his pitch and let his swing do the rest. He shows power to all fields and the ability to get under the ball and get some lift to it. Being a left hander in Yankee Stadium never hurts either. Overall he grades out as above average power to all fields and some plus power to the pull side. Baseball America gives Slade a 60 potential on the 20-80 scale, putting him in the ~25+ range on the high end.
On defense Heathcott shines. Plus defender whose speed takes him gap to gap with ease. An aggressive all out style of play in the field, he foes back on the ball well and will charge hard on the plays in front of him laying out to make the big play. He shows some good instincts reading balls, gives max effort and his incredible athleticism carries him in spite of some loopy routes on certain plays. Despite a pair of shoulder surgeries, his arm is still a plus tool which will allow him to play any position in the OF. Accuracy an issue on occasion as he let’s the ball get away from him from time to time, but easily corrected through repetition. He’s shown some decent improvement in the short time he’s spent in the pro’s and could compete for a fielding award so long as he doesn’t run through the OF wall chasing down a fly ball. Slade’s plus speed has him launching out of the batters box and gives him a chance to steal 20-25 bases. His reads on the paths were worlds better after returning from his last surgery which should keep his SB% at an acceptable clip.
As many are aware, Heathcott had a bit of a rough upbringing; he bounced around a bit, lived in his car at one point and turned to alcohol as an escape/coping mechanism. This manifested while Slade was a new prospect and the Yankees nipped it in the bud, giving him a mentor that helped him get back on track. No one could ever accuse the kid of not giving it his all, and from what I can gather from various interviews, he’s focused on baseball and improving on his craft every day. His max effort approach to the sport will serve him well and take him far as long as his body holds up.
An outstanding athlete; physically gifted with explosive athletic ability. Tools are incredible and the ones that aren’t there yet have the potential to be a plus grade. Has the tools to stay in center field in spite of the shoulder injuries. His defense is already enough for the position but is still improving. His hit tool has the potential to be a plus grade if he can get his patience at the plate under wraps. If what we saw in the AFL is for real, the hit tool has taken a big step forward. Plenty of pop to both gaps, and has the bat speed and enough projected power to play at a corner spot with plenty of glove to field it. There’s no lack of hustle to his game; Keith Law described him as “playing like his hair is on fire”. This could actually be a bit of a drawback for him, as he holds nothing back on the diamond which has led to his injuries and sending him to the DL. Toning it down by just a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing.
It’s really up to him. He ended the year knocking on the door to Trenton and then tore up the AFL. With that said things could move even more quickly….he’ve heard comments from Mark Newman about how he might make his way up later this year, and Cashman just yesterday indicated that he could be in the Bronx shortly. His biggest obstacle is staying healthy, so if he can do just that we’ll be seeing him sooner than later. In summation, Slade is a balls to the wall do or die type of player that is full of tools and ambition. He’s the kind of guy that brings people to the ballpark. He has one of the highest ceilings in the entire system, but at the same time due to the aforementioned high risk profile, also has a pretty low floor. He could end up a perennial All Star, or broken down and out of baseball entirely. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for because he’s going to leave it all on the field trying to win.