If any Yankees prospect has had both Yankees fans and the Yankees organization shaking their collective heads, it is Slade Heathcott.
This is not because of the Texarkana, Texas, native’s rough and somewhat rowdy past, which has been chronicled and not repeated here, but because of his string of injuries and surgeries that would fill volumes.
Heathcott, 25, has found religion, a family, focus and determination since being selected in the first round (29th) by the Yankees in the 2009 draft. Had it not been for the injuries, it s realistic to think the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Heathcott would already be patrolling some part of the Yankee Stadium outfield.
He has the potential to be that good. He also has been DFA (between the 2014 and 2015 seasons), re-signed and restored to the Yankees’ 40-man roster.
And he has tantalized, like in 17 games with the Yankees in 2015 in which he batted .400 (10-for-25) and hit two homers and drove in eight runs. Heathcott had finally arrived, until the injury bug – this tine a quad – short-circuited what he was trying to accomplish on the field.
Yet, through his beliefs and added maturity, Heathcott took it in stride and finally returned to the Yankees late in the season.
Certainly he is a candidate for a fourth outfield spot on the big club, but the question remains his dependability. The only time in his career in which he played the semblance of a full season was in Trenton on 2013, when he hit .261 (104-for-399) in 103 games – and even that year ended with a knee injury.
Part of this came from an all-out style in the outfield, banging into walls and totally sacrificing his body to make a play. Over the years, Heathcott realized he had to make an adjustment.
“I had to learn to control my game a bit better,’’ he said.
Heathcott is also a team guy in the clubhouse, always putting the good of the club ahead of individual acclaim. He will at times deflect adulation, not always wanting to be the center of attention.
He is quick to credit both teammates and opponents and respects the game, which is why th Yankees hope it all clicks someday.
What Heathcott will do in 2016 depends totally on his staying healthy. If he develops into a dependable player, the Yankees have a younger player who can be a major force at the big-league level.
He has plus-speed, a plus and accurate arm, runs good routes in the outfield and has solid power potential. If he could just be physically dependable.
We will see what 2016 brings for Slade Heathcott.