Breaking The Curse

Yankees nab prep outfielder Slade Heathcott in first round

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NEW YORK—Ignoring their recent disappointing history of using first-round picks on outfielders, the Yankees selected Slade Heathcott, a lefthanded hitting outfielder from Texas High in Texarkana, Texas in the first round of Tuesday's draft.
The Yankees liked OF Slade Heathcott's tools and C J.R. Murphy's bat in the first two rounds. The rest of the draft was college-centric with a good senior in RHP Adam Warren (fourth round), a sophomore-eligible in RHP Caleb Cotham (fifth), and loads of potential tough signs: LHP Tyler Lyons (10th), and RHPs Brett Gerritse (12), Graham Stoneburner (14) and Chad Thompson (16). If anyone can talk former West Virginia quarterback Patrick White (48th) out of football—he was a second-round pick in the NFL draft—it would be the Yankees.

Heatchcott, an 18-year-old who was an accomplished lefthander but didn't pitch this season due to shoulder issues, had left knee surgery in November.

"We've been scouting Slade for two years, and we're excited about selecting him," said Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees vice president of amateur scouting.  "We really liked his combination of tools, athletic ability, performance and grit on the field. He's a versatile hitter and has good speed in addition to possessing an above-average arm."

Heathcott batted .457 with four homers and 28 RBIs.

Heathcott is the first outfielder taken by Yankees in the first round since John-Ford Griffin out of Florida State in 2001 (23rd pick overall).  He is the first high school outfielder selected by the Yankees in the first round since 1998 when the organization drafted Andrew Brown out of Richmond High (Ind.) with pick No. 24.

Griffin was dealt and Brown washed out quickly.

"I was pretty surprised. It's indescribable," said Heatchott, who described himself as a former Red Sox fan the minute he was drafted by the Yankees.

Heathcott was with his high school team at the state final four in Round Rock. They're playing a state semifinal Wednesday night and the final is Thursday.

While Heathcott had an inkling he could go in the first round, there was an element of surprise.

"It was somewhat of a surprise. I had a feeling it might happen to a degree. But nothing was final. So it was still a pretty big surprise. I had (talked to the Yankees) quite a bit. I think it'll be an excellent fit," Heathcott said.

The Yankees picked 29th because they failed to sign Gerritt Cole, last year's first-round selection who opted to pitch at UCLA.

Heathcott, who reportedly had academic issues this year, h as an offer from LSU.

 "I've said all along throughout this whole process, I'm in a win-win situation either way. I'm ready to get started if it works out. I'm just in an excellent situation right now," said Heathcott, who describes himself as aggressive and energetic. "I play with a lot of passion and heart."

Asked to rate his tools, Heathcott said his bat is the best.

Heathcott is being advised by Darek Braunecker, A.J. Burnett's agent.

 "I'm not sure about that," Heathcott said of starting negotiations. "We're going to negotiate through everything and I don't have a clue how long it will take."

Nor did he know when they would begin.

"I imagine it'll be after the season so I can focus on these games first. It'll wait until right after this series," Heathcott said.

Heathcott has met Burnett.

"I did talk to A.J. and his family. Back when I first met Darek, we went to a Rangers ballgame against the Blue Jays last year while they were in Dallas," Heathcott said. "We sat down with A.J. and his mom and dad and we talked then. It's actually ironic now that I think about it. I guess everything happens for a reason. It seems like a good fit."

As for his knee, it's improved since November surgery.

"It's sore from time to time. I came back in three and half months to try and help my high school team out. The doctor said it would be sore but it's doing good," Heathcott said.

Heathcott, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, was a third-team all-state selection and named first-team all-district this season.  He was an Aflac all-American selection as a lefthander in 2008, while also playing outfield at various events, including the Perfect Game National Showcase and the Area Code Games.  

Heathcott was he 72nd-best prospect (18th-best high school position player) in the drat and the 10th-best prospect in the state of Texas this season.

The Yankees picked 18-year-old catcher John Murphy of Pendleton High in Bradenton, Fla. with the 76th pick in the draft. He hit .627 with 11 homers and 66 RBIs.