We’re nearly two weeks away from opening day, and the Yankees haven’t designated a third or fourth outfielder yet. In recent days, Zoilo Almonte, Tyler Austin, and Ramon Flores have been optioned down, Adonis Garcia has suffered an injury, Matt Diaz has looked awful, and Ronnier Mustelier and Juan Rivera have been getting looks in the infield. The front office did acquire Ben Francisco earlier this week, but Cashman called him a bench option. Slade Heathcott, Thomas Neal, and Melky Mesa are all that remain.
On paper, Heathcott seems like an unlikely choice. He’s been in the Yankee system since 2009, but he has just 869 plate appearances thanks to a number of injuries. The highest level of the minor leagues he’s seen is High-A, where he hit very well this year, but would be in a rare position to jump from such a low level to the major leagues. Regardless, Brian Cashman called him a “dark horse candidate” for the outfield job. Heathcott was briefly sidelined with a thumb injury, but he’s still left a lasting impression with his defense in center field. Though he hasn’t hit, the outfielder has shown defensive tools that Cashman called major league ready. If Cashman was sincere about the organization’s evaluation on Heathcott, the left-hander seems to offer everything you’d want on defense, and upside in the bat. The only problem is that you risk some developmental time in the minor leagues, and there’s always worry about a player’s confidence if they fail.
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