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Friday, November 16, 2012

MLB: Yankees’ Heathcott finishing with a flourish in AFL

Selected by New York 29th overall in the 2009 Draft out of Texas High School, Heathcott has a checkered past that includes family issues and personal problems. Injuries and surgeries have added to the time Heathcott has spent away from the field, but he has been as locked in as any hitter over the last week.

The Yankees’ No. 5 prospect and third-ranked outfielder is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak. Over that time, he’s batting 19-for-32 (.594) with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. He has also stolen three bases over that spell, and he has as many walks (three) as strikeouts.

Heathcott capped a solid 2012 season with a great stint in the Arizona Fall League.  His 388/.494/.612 line gave him an OPS that .was second in the league.  He’ll be 22 in 2013, and may start the year in AA, although he only has 248 PA in advanced Class A thanks to injuries.  I’m concerned about his ability to remain healthy, but I am optimistic about his play and while I think it’s a long shot, he may be a possibility for a starting OF spot in MLB at some point in 2014.  From what I’ve read he’s got better tools than Mason Williams, but I think his health makes him a bigger question mark.

If the Yankees are going to achieve their goal of being competitive with a restricted payroll, players like Heathcott are going to be critical.  Let’s hope he’s part of the solution.

--Posted at 8:48 am by SG / 33 Comments | - (0)

Comments

Page 1 of 1 pages:

[0] Yeah Heathcott I believe is a little faster with a slightly stronger arm, and also has more raw power.  Williams has a little more polish, and is a full year younger, and also has much less of an injury history.

So basically, Heathcott is maybe 20-25 HR w/ 30-35 steals, an OBP around 360, and like +10 in CF.  But with 150K.  Williams is 15-20 HR, 25-30 steals, an OBP around 350, and +5 in CF, maybe 100K.  But Williams is much more likely to achieve his ceiling, due in large part to health and the lesser strikeouts (since high-K guys are more likely to be exploited by ML pitching).

Ideally of course, both guys stay healthy this year and move fast through the system, along with Austin.  And maybe by 2015, all 3 are starting in the OF, putting up 2-4 WAR seasons and looking like they can regularly top that, with a 31 year-old Gardner either being traded before he hits FA or being a 4th OF.  More likely, one of the 3 is a starter, one was traded, and one bombed for some reason or another.  Still would be a success of the minor league system (espcially if the trade brought back a good SS or SP), not a failure.

[1] As best as I can tell Heathcott has the arm advantage and power advantage but Williams has the better hit tool and then the other two are tossups.

Since the Yankees are going to suck next year anyway, it’s going to be worth it to make the trip down to Trenton and check out the Flores-Heathcott-Austin OF.

What is Austin’s ceiling?

[2] Yeah they are very close in speed but I think I’ve read Heatchott is a little faster.  Williams actually has more steals in less playing time, but he’s also run more (76 attempts compared to 61, both rates poor). I think most of Heathcott’s advantage in defense is with the arm.  And the fact he goes all out, which probably adds some value in defense but is also one of the reasons he’s so much an injury risk.  Another thing Heathcott does better is walk, as his rates have been in the 8-12%, whereas Williams is more in the 5-6%. 

I think it is likely if the strikeouts can be kept under control, Heathcott will be something like a .275/.360/450 type of player, whereas Williams will be .300/.340/.450.  Not a ton of difference.  Probably at ceiling Williams is a 4-5 win player and Heathcott is a 5-6 win player (assuming 160G, 650+ PA), right?  With more like 3-4 WAR for Williams, and 2-3 for Heathcott (K’s hurting BA more, injuries sapping playing time) more likely “good” outcomes.

[3] Probably something like .300/.380/.500, average-ish RF, maybe a slight plus on the basebaths (he isn’t fast but seems like a smart runner)?  Matt Holliday (2012 version) maybe?  So solidly a 3-4 WAR player, maybe peaking around 5?

Of course, it’s very possible that he’s a poor RF and is destined for 1B.  Either way that may knock him down to a 2-3 WAR player, peaking around 4.

I agree on that Heathcott slash line, but I think Williams is better than that.

[6] So you think Williams has a higher ceiling than Heathcott as well?  Always possible.  I think it’s difficult to project a minor leaguer to have a better BA than .300, so are you mostly quibbling about the slugging, the OBP, or both?  He seems to have some Robinson Cano in him - great bat control so he doesn’t strike out much, but also doesn’t walk much.  Cano has learned to walk more, however part of that may be people respecting his power.  IDK if Williams will ever have the power to get that respect, so I also don’t know if he’ll get those walk rates up to the 8-9% rate he needs to get his OBP up above .360.  However, it certainly is possible he grows into the power, or learns some more patience.

Cano has learned to walk more, however part of that may be people respecting his power.

I agree.  Cano has at times shown the discipline to not swing at pitches off the plate, even though he can make contact with said pitches.  He has also been pitched around more, as some of the guys hitting behind him are not as dangerous as they once were.

[3] Somewhere between above average and All-Star level RF. The nicve thing about Austin is that his floor is relatively high since he does everything well.

I think Heathcott has a higher ceiling than Williams, but like Mike said, it’s pretty close between them. I am pretty interested to see how Heathcott’s Ks are next year. I would not be surprised to see them drop a bit as he plays his second pro year in a row for the first time.

I am pretty interested to see how Heathcott’s Ks are next year. I would not be surprised to see them drop a bit as he plays his second pro year in a row for the first time.

He’s played in ‘10, ‘11 and ‘12. In ‘10 he struck out in 33.9% of ABs, In ‘11 he struck out in 27% of ABs, and in ‘12 he struck out in 30.2% of ABs. I have very little confidence in his ability to either a.) stay healthy or b.) get his K-rate to a manageable level. While he was the taking walks advantage over Williams, I really don’t think that’s important at the lower levels of the minors and certainly not enough to overcome Williams’ K-rate advantage IMO. Finally, to this point of their careers Williams has actually been the one to show more in-game power, which he was really starting to tap into before he went down with injury. I guess the more I think about it the more certain I am that I like Williams a lot more than Heathcott. I would take Williams, Sanchez, and Austin over him.

[10] Health is the big issue since Heathcott has yet to complete a full season. this year is his closest with the additional time in the AFL.

I think it’s also completely fair to value Austin, Williams and Sanchez over Heathcott (I do). But I still think Heathcott has a higher ceiling than Williams or Austin, and probably about the same as Sanchez. If you were to make me choose between Willaims and Heathcott right now, I’d take Williams.

But can he hit in the postseason? Fall ball doesn’t count.

[11] I guess I just don’t buy that Heathcott’s ceiling is necessarily that high because his offensive potential is capped by his K rate. Let’s say he’s a .270 hitter, which I think is likely/reasonable based on what is known now, he’s going to have to hit for a lot more power and walk a lot more than Williams is to have about the same offensive value as a Williams who is a .300 hitter. I don’t see any evidence to believe he will do either of those things.

Not that it matters much at this stage, but CAIRO likes Williams more than Heathcott.

Heathcott: .226/.287/.338
Williams: .252/.305/.381

And Williams is younger.

As NJ says, the K rate is a big deal.  I have Heathcott projected to strike out 94 times in 301 PA and Williams to strike out 70 times in 405 PA.  So Heathcott has to really hit the ball a lot harder when he does make contact if he’s going to be similar in value to Williams.

I am encouraged by Heathcott’s AFL performance, especially since the AFL is generally considered to be ~AA level. I think Williams is the better bet right now, but I’m optimistic on Heathcott. Like I said earlier, I’d take Williams over Heathcott right now, pretty easily.

The K-rate is a big deal, but I don’t think it is fatal.  I remember - quite vividly - the argument that Gardner struck out too much in the minor leagues, w/o sufficient power, to be a useful batter in the majors.  But Gardner managed to keep essentially the same K, BB, and power rates when he tranisition to the majors, and he’s been essentially a league-average hitter for his career (wRC+ of 98, which includes a disjointed and bad rookie year).

Now obviously there are a lot of differences between Gardner and Heathcott.  But I think we can sometimes concentrate too much on one number (like K-rate).  Or BB-rate (I was told that Cano would never walk 50 times in a year).

Melky to the Blue Jays.  $16/2.  For that price I would have wanted him back easy.

Isn’t the AFL a big hitter’s league?  Eric Duncan was the 2005 MVP FWIW and in his case not much.

The K-rate is a big deal, but I don’t think it is fatal.  I remember - quite vividly - the argument that Gardner struck out too much in the minor leagues, w/o sufficient power, to be a useful batter in the majors.  But Gardner managed to keep essentially the same K, BB, and power rates when he tranisition to the majors, and he’s been essentially a league-average hitter for his career (wRC+ of 98, which includes a disjointed and bad rookie year).

Not the same. Gardner struck out a lot for a guy with no power. Heathcott strikes out a lot.

[18] Unreal. Where the fuck is Cashman on that?

[19] They aren’t, and they are.  They are in the fact that you focus too much one one negative thing and doom a guy for that.  I’m certainly not saying Heathcott *will* overcome the strikeouts - or succeed in spite of them.  What I *am* saying is that you can’t just look at the strikeouts and say, “he won’t be as good as player x”.

Also, I don’t think the strikeouts limit his upside.  They limit is *ability* to reach his upside.

[20] Possibly Melky wanted nothing to do with the Yankees.  Possibly ownership wanted nothing to do with Melky (negative PR for PED, something else).  Or possibly it’s still a baseball decision based on some scouting/numbers we don’t have access to.  The last I doubt highly.

[22] I can accept Melky not wanting to return to NY, but PED PR is nonsense. I fthat was the reason, someone should probably be fired.

[23] If they’re thinking of the PED/PR issue, it’s not coming from any lower down than Levine, and quite possibly coming from Hal/Hank.  IOW, no one that will ever be fired.

I agree that it *shouldn’t* be something that they consider.  But then again, apparently at least 29 teams are if Melky only got 2/16.  That’s only paying for like 3 wins over 2 years.

It could be less about the PR side of the PED issue and more about the fact that his PED use makes his performance level a bigger question mark.

If it was going to take two years, it’s a non-issue.  It’s one year or bust for this group.

So are the Yankees going to simply refuse to look at anyone wanting more than a 1 year contract?

They have a plan.

That’s only paying for like 3 wins over 2 years.

that’s the part that blows my mind, for that price you deal with whatever potential PED blow back you get, because the value is so high, and if you aren’t willing to sign a guy who just put up 2 very solid seasons for 2/16, why bother signing anyone? For even one year?

If they don’t have the room in the budget for an $8M OFer in 2014 then they are in trouble.

They aren’t, and they are.  They are in the fact that you focus too much one one negative thing and doom a guy for that.  I’m certainly not saying Heathcott *will* overcome the strikeouts - or succeed in spite of them.  What I *am* saying is that you can’t just look at the strikeouts and say, “he won’t be as good as player x”.

Also, I don’t think the strikeouts limit his upside.  They limit is *ability* to reach his upside.

I would argue that strikeouts limit both his ability to reach his upside as well as his upside. Striking out a lot is going to limit his ability to hit for average, assuming he ever even makes the majors.

If they don’t have the room in the budget for an $8M OFer in 2014 then they are in trouble.

This has to be the theme of the 2013 Yankees.

[30]  Well that’s fair enough I guess.  The issue (to me) goes to tools vs. skills.  Understanding that there is some crossover between tools and skills, to me not striking out is a skill.  You can learn to improve by better pitch recognition, better approach (learning to lay off pitches 3 inches out of the zone), and better strategy (swinging at pitches you can drive earlier in the count), sometimes w/o sacrificing other things.  Whereas tools, there are often more ceilings on.  You usually can’t get significantly faster for example, you often can’t get stronger in one area w/o sacrificing another (quickness, flexibility, etc). 

So to me Heathcott’s upside is developing the skills to fully take advantage of his tools.  One of those skills is going to be learning to strike out less.  That IS doable, it just isn’t a given.  So his upside is if he learns to lower his K-rate, he has the other tools to hit a lot of HR (for a CF), he has the BB-rate (which may improve) to be on base even more, and then the speed to steal bases.

I think it’s fair to view K-rate as something that it’s very difficult to change w/o completely reworking swing/approach, which can also have other negative impacts (lower BB-rate, less power, etc).  I just don’t think we can make blanket asssumptions about it.

[29] Well again, they may not have had an option, or had that value on the table.  Melky may have already decided that he wasn’t going to play for Yankees (perhaps he felt insulted at being traded before), or if he was they were going to pay a premium and he demanded 2/24 from them.  More details on that will likely come out.

As for the point of not having $8M in the budget, I’m sure they do.  It’s just a matter of spending it wisely.  For example, maybe the most they’re willing to go on Cano is $23M a year, which is an $8M raise for next year.  Since they don’t yet know if they’ll be able to sign Cano for that amount (or if they can manage to get less), they may not be willing to commit that $8M elsewhere. 

And of course, if they have some baseball reason for not trusting Melky to be better than 1 WAR in 2014, then spending $8M on it when there is a hard budget isn’t wise.  I doubt they have such information.  But it isn’t impossible that they do.

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