tweetybird leaked Baseball America's top 10 Yankee prospects for the coming meltdown year. You know the deal: It's the annual Yankiverse salivation-fest, where we analyze stool samples and promote the rising studs, even if other teams have far more in the pipeline than we do. In fact, this year's list has a few disturbing cracks: Two of our 10 - Jose Campos and Manny Banuelos - might not even throw a pitch in 2013, and a third, Rafael DePaula, has now wasted two years just trying to get a VISA. What's the problem? Is he trying to get in via Iran? Is he trying to bring his pet Komodo lizard?
Nevertheless, one name on the list stands out - as it always does. It's not the name of a ballplayer. It's the name of a drummer in glam-metal 80s tribute band. Slade Heathcott. He's a former first-rounder who plays CF when not rehabbing his shoulder or attacking smart-mouth catchers.
Heathcott is ranked number two - behind Mason Williams - but you might say he's Number 2 with a bullet. He leaped over a bunch we've heard about for years - including Gary "Jesus Jr." Sanchez and the great Dellin "Bed, Bath And" Betances. As we speak, Heathcott is ripping apart the Arizona League, rather than his shoulder tissue. He finished last year in Tampa, and he could conceivably make it to Joe Biden town this year - which means being just a Grandy hammy-pull away from NY.
Since the day we drafted him, Heathcott has been the most intriguing prospect in the Yankee system. He's screwed up his shoulder twice, missing huge chunks of seasons. But he's a crazy, mixed up Tarzan, arguably the second coming of Josh Hamilton. Seriously, the kid's got issues. But he might be tracking through them. If so, wow.
Two years ago, in low A, the Charleston newspaper rolled out a thumbsucker, let's-win-an-award opus on Heathcott. It described a tortured Addams family childhood - booze abuse, homelessness, trailer parks and gun-in-the-mouth suicidal moments. It was gut-wrenching, and it suggested the reasons why Heathcott fell so low in the first round, so the Yankees could take him. The next night, in his first at bat, something happened. Heathcott turned on the catcher, who must have said something. It was a nasty brawl. The league suspended Heathcott for a bunch of games, and then he ripped out his shoulder - his signature move. He became an afterthought - another Andrew Brackman idea that didn't seem to work.
Well, now he's on a roll. Last year, he put together a great second half. And he's hitting in Arizona. Who knows what we've got. The kid is a grenade. But he's fast, he's strong, and if he runs into the wall, the wall loses. Baseball America has him ranked Number 2, but he's ahead of Williams on the development timeline. That could make him the first high-ceiling Yankee position prospect to come out of our farm system since Robbie Cano. Imagine for a moment something we didn't have last year: A great player in centerfield. Slade Heathcott. Keep your fingers crossed everybody. He's Number 2 with a Bullet. Let's just hope he doesn't use it on himself.