Yankees' Heathcott finishing with a flourish in AFL
New York outfielder developing a successful approach at the plate with Scottsdale
Yankees prospect Slade Heathcott knows he hasn't always been a model player. But he's also sure that if he continues to work hard and put in the effort, he will be able to reward the faith and patience the team has shown in him.
As the Arizona Fall League enter its final days, the 21-year-old outfielder is doing everything he can to ensure his season finishes on the upswing.
Heathcott went 3-for-5 with a double -- his sixth of the year -- two runs scored and an RBI Wednesday as the Scottsdale Scorpions beat the Mesa Solar Sox, 8-2, on the penultimate day of the regular season.
"If it is meant to happen, the good Lord will make it happen in the long run if I give it my all," said the outfield prospect, who is now batting .388 with a homer and 15 RBIs in 17 outings. "I play hard, every pitch, every swing. Sometimes this is misinterpreted as being disrespectful, but that is just me. I take pride in playing hard.
"I'm not the easiest guy to get along with, and sometimes I can be set in my ways, but [the Yankees} know I will work hard."
On Wednesday, Heathcott doubled to left field and scored in the first inning, and he plated Ricky Oropesa with a one-out RBI single to right field in the second. He then singled to center field and scored on Ronny Rodriguez's RBI single in the fifth before popping out in the sixth and grounding out in the eighth.
"It was a first-pitch fastball and I got my front foot down early," Heathcott said of his RBI hit. "I got on top of it, but with a runner on first the infielder was playing up the middle and there was a hole there between first and second.
"I've been trying to use the middle of the field, pull the ball, go [the opposite way] and hope my hands can get to the inside pitch."
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.
The Arkansas native is reluctant to say that he's in a groove at the plate, but admits he can be a streaky hitter at times. That mentality is part of his new outlook on life in general and specifically his attitude toward baseball.
"It's just about having consistent at-bats," he said. "I hate to say that I'm streaky, but it's just something I'm working on. For the first time in three years, I feel like I have an approach at the plate. But it's not always going to be like that. When I figure my approach out and I know what I'm doing, the next time I have an 0-fer I can get back to that point.
"I just want to stay with my approach, stay mentally tough and take that into the offseason. I need to see the ball and not swing at bad pitches, not chase. I need to become more disciplined."
Scottsdale shortstop Rodriguez (Indians) finished 2-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. Fellow Yankees farmhand David Adams reached base three times, tripled home a run and scored once. Center fielder Travis Witherspoon (Angels) recorded two RBIs out of the No. 7 spot, and second baseman Adalberto Santos (Pirates) doubled, walked and scored twice.
Scorpions starter Chris Gloor (Giants) improved to 2-2 after scattering two hits and a walk while striking out two batters over five scoreless innings.
"He has been good the whole time," Heathcott said. "He's very consistent, guys haven't hit him hard. There are a lot of good guys here [in the AFL] who know to pitch."
Mesa third baseman and leadoff hitter Jiovanni Mier (Astros) reached base twice and scored once. Shortstop Logan Watkins (Cubs) and Tigers' top prospect Nick Castellanos -- MLB.com's No. 10 prospect -- plated the Solar Sox's only two runs of the game.
Mesa starting pitcher Mike Wright yielded three runs -- two earned -- on six hits over four frames. He fanned three batters over four frames and fell to 0-5.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.