Mehring Monday: Heckathorn and the list

Welcome to the first edition of Mehring Monday in a long time.  Back at it again for the rest of 2010.

I know that it’s just a list, and that with 16 teams in the MWL it is tough to make a Top 20 prospects list without leaving deserving candidates off the list.

HOWEVER,

The reasoning behind the decision to leave Rattlers pitcher Kyle Heckathorn off the MWL list leaves me…oh…underwhelmed…That seems to be a word that is pretty popular.

IMG_2270_Brewer Outfit_PSB FOTO.jpg
Photo Credit: Patrick S. Blood/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Battlekow and colbyjack over at BrewersFan.net have done some of the heavy lifting on this.

#1

Jim (South Bend): Was Kyle Heckathorn considered in this list?
Jim
Callis: Scouts were underwhelmed by him. Some velo but also some
effort, not much in the way of secondary pitches. He wasn’t as much of a
disaster as Eric Arnett was, but scouts weren’t in love with Heckathorn
at all.

Ha. Okay, we get it: Heckathorn isn’t as good as his numbers might lead
you to believe, but “wasn’t as much of a disaster as Eric Arnett” is
silly hyperbole. Come on now, Jim.

#2

That’s a very curious assessment by Callis, since Baseball America also
had Heckathorn’s changeup ranked as the league’s best according to their
poll of the league managers. There is an obvious inconsistency there,
and you have to wonder if Callis is speaking of “scouts” or the 1 scout
that he polled that saw Heckathorn on his worst day.

#3

Some velo but also some effort, not much in the way of secondary pitches.

BA’s midseason tools reports:

Best Changeup: Kyle Heckathorn, Wisconsin

There is some serious inconsistency here that makes me question the validity of either report.

#4

I asked Callis, and he said: “Scouts didn’t like it nearly as much as mgrs did.”

You get the idea. Plus, you get a gratuitous shot at Eric Arnett, too.  Really, Jim?

Just out of curiosity, I went back to take a look at the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook entry for Heckathorn, who was rated as the #10 Prospect in the Brewers organization.

His raw stuff is outstanding and rivaled anyone’s in the 2009 draft.  His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and peaks at 98.  His slider also can be devastating, registering in the high 80′s. Even with his live are and big frame, Heckathorn doesn’t have any problems throwing strikes.  Heckathorn is learning how to use his stuff. He doesn’t know how to set up batters and actually throws too many hittable strikes at times. He must come up with a reliable changeup so hitters can’t sit on his hard stuff, and he’ll have to locate his pitches better in the strike zone…The Brewers will keep Heckathorn in a starting role for now, though some scouts project him as an overpowering closer.

Managers think that Heck developed the best changeup in the Midwest League this season.  Scouts didn’t. Baseball America used the managers vote for their Best Tools issue.  But, that had no impact on the thinking for the prospect list. Sounds like a template has been set for Heckathorn and he will be made to fit in that template no matter what.

After seeing all of his appearances this season, it appeared to me that Heckathorn became more comfortable once he was placed in the starting rotation and was no longer used in the tandem.

Starting on May 16, Heckathorn made eight straight quality starts.  I know what you are probably thinking, “Ho-hum, quality starts. Big deal.  Three earned runs in six innings.  You know that is an ERA of 4.50, right?”

Well, how about if I told you that in those eight quality starts he allowed one earned run three times, zero earned runs three times, and three earned runs twice.  Also, in those eight starts starts, he went seven innings in four straight games. He also walked six batters and struck out 36 batters over the 52 innings of those starts.

Plus, there was a stretch of 24-2/3 innings in there where he did not walk an opposing batter.

Since this was a Midwest League list, I doubt that consideration was given to Heck’s performance once he was promoted to the Florida State League.  Also, I have no first hand reports on his performance with the Manatees, so I will just have to go off his statistics.

Eight starts with four quality starts in the FSL. 39IP, 40 hits, 15 runs, 13 earned runs, 10 walks, 23 strikeouts.  I know that the latest fad is to not mention records because wins aren’t the best way to measure the performance of a pitcher. *cough*4-0withBrevardCounty*cough*

For a pitcher in his first full season who throws too many hittable strikes at times and needs to work on his changeup, Heckathorn gave up a total of 122 hits in 124 innings pitched between Wisconsin and Brevard County.  Add in 33 walks over those 124 innings and you have that new wave WHIP stat of a 1.25.  I’m pretty sure that number is pretty good.

At the end of the day, the list has served its purpose. It has fans who follow minor league baseball talking about baseball, looking at the stats, and drawing their own conclusions.  And that is a good start to the offseason.

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