Friday, January 4, 2013

Are Slade Heathcott & Mark Montgomery Ready For MLB?

"Now what are you thinking?"

Over at the LoHud Yankees blog, Chad Jennings wrote about a meeting Jack Curry had with the Yankees amateur scouting director, Damon Oppenheimer. Curry was specifically asking about Slade Heathcott and Mark Montgomery, two guys that Damon drafted a few years ago. Surprisingly, Oppenheimer said that he could see both men playing for the Yankees by the end of the season.

Now, it isn't very surprising in terms of Montgomery, a 22 year old that was drafted out of college in 2011. Mark has been climbing the minor league ladder quickly, ending last season in AA Trenton, due to having a good fastball and... in the words of Oppenheimer... a "really slick" slider. He's been compared to David Robertson for having the ability to strike out quite a few hitters with that fastball and breaking ball combo.

When it comes to Slade Heathcott, though, that's when my eyebrow raised. Although, like Montgomery, Slade is 22 years old, Heathcott's rise through the system hasn't been quite as fast. He played 60 games in High A Tampa last season, and was great in the Arizona Fall League, but no matter how well he's recovering from shoulder surgery I don't see him making any sort of impact in MLB in 2013.

"This jerk doesn't think I can do it."

If Damon had spoken about each man separately then I wouldn't make a big deal about it. He'd be talking realistically about Montgomery at one point, then at some other time he'd simply be talking-up Heathcott like any team would with their prospects. But to act two different ways towards those players at the same time strikes me as odd.

I'm sure Brian Cashman consults Oppenheimer whenever a prospect is being discussed for a trade, so could there be one in the works that involves Heathcott and Montgomery? Was this little interview with Jack Curry a way for the Yankees to make their side of a proposed deal look better? You know, make the team that would receive Slade believe he was further along than he actually is. It's no secret that the Yankees are overly cautious, and players rise through the minors slower than they normally would on other teams. I mean, if Bryce Harper were in the Yankees organization, I wouldn't be surprised if he were still in AA after having been drafted out of high school in 2010. So even though Heathcott wasn't likely to jump into MLB anytime soon with the Yankees, perhaps he would be able to with another club. Like say... the Diamondbacks?

I think anybody would be interested in Mark Montgomery, as all teams seem to be on the lookout for bullpen help. Especially bullpen help that would come as cheaply, in terms of money, and be under team control for a while. Looking at Arizona's bullpen, it could get thinner after this season when JJ Putz's contract is up, leaving the closer spot open for the D-Backs. David Hernandez could be the new closer for them in 2014, while Brad Ziegler would be a fine candidate although he's a free agent in 2015. So it makes sense that the Diamondbacks would like Montgomery.

"Everybody wants some of Mr. Montgomery."

It's fairly well known that Arizona currently has an extra outfielder, as they have Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and the newly signed Cody Ross. Not to mention that Adam Eaton hit well after being called up in early September, putting up a batting line of .259/.382/.412. And don't forget somebody like AJ Pollock, who Mike Axisa touched on earlier in a post at River Avenue Blues. With Kubel possibly being a free agent after this season (there is a mutual option for 2014), there's a very good chance that they'd like to move him. A package that includes Mark Montgomery and Slade Heathcott should be enough to get a deal done. However... is that too much?

Jason Kubel had a good 2012, having put up 30 homers, but his batting average was a not-so-impressive .253, to go with an OBP of only .327. So while somebody with that kind of power would be nice to help make up for the loss of 45 home runs from last season (Swisher had 24 while Martin had 21), I don't like the idea of having another player with a low average and OBP. Heck, they'll likely have Cervelli or Stewart start at catcher. Not to mention that Kubel's strikeout rate spiked last season, going from a career high of 21.5% in 2011 to 26.4% in 2012.

You probably know where this is going... could Montgomery and Heathcott be part of a bigger package for Justin Upton?

There's a better chance of this movie winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, than me letting go of trading for Justin Upton.

With the loss of Joe Saunders, who started 21 games for the D-Backs last season, and Patrick Corbin having started 17 games and putting up a not-great 4.54 ERA, it would make sense that they would want to acquire another starter. Meanwhile, the Yankees have more than enough arms for their starting rotation in 2013, with Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Nova, Pineda (for part of the season), and youngsters such as David Phelps ready to step in.

Perhaps I'm being more naive than usual, thinking Brian Cashman and Co. have a big trade up their sleeve. However, Ninja Cashman did mention that they're still working on making some bigger moves this offseason. So I wouldn't be surprised if we have a new outfielder in New York within the next couple of weeks.

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