Don’t forget we’re having a chat at noon today. I hoping some of you can stop by before we head into the first weekend of 2013. And to try to build some positive vibes heading into the weekend — and into the chat! — let’s start today with something positive.
Late last night, Jack Curry tweeted about a conversation he had with Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. Why talk to Oppenheimer five months before the draft? Because Curry was asking about guys Oppenheimer drafted a few years ago, specifically center fielder Slade Heathcott and reliever Mark Montgomery.
Maybe he’s being overly optimistic — especially in Heathcott’s case — but Oppenheimer said he could see each of them getting to New York before the end of the year.
Makes sense with Montgomery, a college reliever who’s moved quickly through the system and got to Double-A last year. Oppenheimer called Montgomery’s slider “really sick” and spoke highly of his makeup. In my conversations with the Yankees minor league decision makers, I’ve heard him compared to Dave Robertson for his ability to get strikeouts with both his fastball and breaking ball.
Although he’s not on the 40-man and has fewer than 30 innings above High-A, Montgomery has been so good in the minors that I tend to think it will be an upset if he’s not at least a September call-up.
On the other hand, a Yankees official mentioning the idea of Heathcott getting to the big leagues this year surprised me a little. Clearly the Yankees were happy with Heathcott’s return from shoulder surgery, and he was terrific in the Arizona Fall League, but the Yankees have been so cautious with Heathcott — keeping him in extended spring training, then limiting him to DH until mid-July – that I don’t really expect them to suddenly rush him. That’s especially true considering the big league roster already has three left-handed outfielders capable of playing center (four the Yankees find a way to keep Chris Dickerson).
But Oppenheimer is bullish. He called Heathcott an “impact player” and left open the possibility of him playing his way into the big league picture before the end of the season. Of course you’d expect the Yankees scouting director to be high on his own prospect, but the Yankees usually back away from this sort of on-the-fast-track expectation. If Heathcott can stay healthy, move quickly and live up to his potential, the Yankees could have one of those coveted, cost-controlled players sooner rather than later.