The New York Yankees have placed veteran outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list with a knee sprain. To replace him they are promoting outfield prospect Slade Heathcott from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Here is a look at what to expect.
Heathcott was drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 2009 from high school in Texarkana, Texas. His physical tools were highly-respected but some teams shied away due to a troubled and chaotic family background. He also had a problem with alcohol although this wasn't common knowledge at the time. The Yankees eventually found out of course and helped Heathcott get treatment. It wasn't easy but he turned his personal life around.
His baseball life hasn't been easy either, mainly due to injuries.
Heathcott has played more than 100 games just once in his six-year career, when he hit .261/.327/.411 in 103 contests for Double-A Trenton in 2013. Injuries have slowed him more often than not, including significant injuries to both shoulders that needed surgery, plus patellar tendinitis in his right knee which also required surgery but still cost him almost all of the 2014 season. His stock was down enough that the Yankees released him last fall to open up a roster spot, though they subsequently signed him to a minor league contract in January and invited him to spring training.
Originally projected as a power/speed regular outfielder with multiple tools, 24-year-old Heathcott hasn't developed the expected power and no longer runs as well as he used to, although his speed is still good. His defensive instincts are quite impressive and even with his physical maladies his glove remains a positive asset in center field. Whatever his off-field problems in the past, his on-field work ethic is strong and he plays with tremendous energy and hustle.
With the bat he's been a steady .270-.280 hitter when healthy, hitting .270/.345/.398 in his minor league career including a .285/.335/.358 line this year in Triple-A. As noted the home run power never blossomed but he has some doubles pop. When he does show power it is generally to the pull side. He is an aggressive hitter and not one to draw many walks; his whiff rates have been rather high though it has improved this year.
Overall, Heathcott profiles as a fourth outfielder due to his defense and occasional sparks of offense from the left side of the plate. He does strike me as the type of player who could have "unexpected" short-term success until the pitchers make adjustments.