Ben Heller is a 6-foot-3 right-handed reliever out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Cleveland Indians drafted him in the 22nd Round of the 2013 draft. The New York Yankees acquired heller in July of 2016 as a part of the trade that sent Andrew Miller to the Indians.
Heller was able to get a good amount of work in for the Indians’ short-season club, The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, in the New York Penn League. He pitched in 21 games (starting 1) and had a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 innings pitched. He also recorded two saves and struck out 39 batters.
He spent the 2014 season between two clubs: The Cleveland A+ affiliate, The Carolina Mudcats, and the Single-A Lake County Captains. For Carolina, Heller pitched to a 2.25 ERA in 17 games. Over 16 IP he had 17 strikeouts and notched one save. The only blemish for Heller in Carolina was his 7.3 BB/9, but that wouldn’t be a long-term problem for him during the season.
He would also spend some time with the Captains and, once again, showed his talent. He had a 4-1 win/loss record in 28 games pitched. He saved four games and struck out 64 batters in 37 innings.
Heller faltered a bit in his 2015 season. He spent most of the year with the A+ affiliate for Cleveland, the Lynchburg Hillcats, and appeared in 36 games there. In those games, he only pitched 34.1 innings and had an ERA of 4.46. He did, however, have 12 saves on the year, and he struck out 43 hitters.
He would also get his first chance at pitching for the Indians’ Double-A affiliate, the Akron RubberDucks. While it was a brief stint (5 games and 6 IP) he did strike out 15 batters and had a 1.50 ERA.
The 2016 season was a big year for Heller. He spent more time in Akron and continued to impress with a 0.55 ERA over 15 games (16.1 IP). He also struck out 23 batters and saved seven games.
He also was promoted to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ affiliate, and put in the bulk of his season there. In his first AAA run, he had a 2-2 record with a 2.49 ERA in 28 games. He saved five games and struck out 25 in 25.1 IP.
Then, in July, he was traded to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade and was assigned to the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
While the sample size was limited, Heller dazzled in his time with SWB. He had a 1.42 ERA in 6 games and struck out seven hitters.
Then on August 26th of that year, Heller would make his major league debut against the Baltimore Orioles. He had the opportunity to pitch in 10 games for New York (7 innings) and struck out seven batters although he did struggle. He gave up five runs in those innings and had a 6.43 ERA due to the amount of contact he was giving up.
Heller got back on track after a shaky MLB debut the previous year. He went up and down between the Yankees and RailRiders but, overall, had an excellent season.
For the RailRiders, Heller was 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA. He pitched in 41 games and saved 6 of them. Over 56.1 innings he struck out a robust 82 batters.
He would toss in nine games for the Yankees during the year, and over those games, he accumulated 11 innings while striking out 9. He would only give up one run during those appearances and had an ERA of 0.82.
Heller underwent Tommy John surgery in April and missed the entire 2018 season.
Heller comes with a nice frame at 6-foot-3, 205 lbs. He has a big fastball, which is his best pitch, and it comes with some late movement that often ties hitters up. His fastball sits in the mid-to-high ’90s, and every once in a while he can dial it up to triple digits.
His best secondary pitch is his slider which is above average. He throws it in the mid-’80s, and it comes with nice depth and drops out of the zone late. The fastball/slider combination for Heller has helped him generate a ton of swing-and-misses which contribute to his high strikeout rate.
He has also been trying to develop a changeup, which he mixes in now and then to help compliment his other pitches. The changeup is a work in progress for him.
Heller will see his return to game action in spring training, and while he has an outside chance of making the major league roster he will likely start the season in Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.