6’3 200 lbs 5/20/1998
Perfect Game All-American
Cullman HS; Cullman, AL
It’s no secret the Dayton Moore led Royals have had difficulties developing high school pitchers from the MLB Draft. Developing major league pitching from the prep ranks is one of the most difficult things to do via the draft for any team, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done and done better than what we’ve seen in Kansas City. Since 2007, this front office has selected 68 prep pitchers with Danny Duffy the lone pitcher to appear in a major league uniform with the Royals. The success rate hasn’t been good for the Royals, but if they are going to go down this road, there is one pitcher who quite intriguing.
When I write about this pitcher, it should be noted that I’m making a sudden departure in my draft preferences based on the lack of success that we’ve seen in the Royals system. The old profile that I preferred was a big left-handed pitcher with a plus fastball, good present changeup and some feel for the breaking ball. Think along the lines of Mike Montgomery and Foster Griffin. After years of realizing that phylum has had some difficulties performing within the system, I think the Royals should stick to the fastball/breaking ball types who show some feel for the change. Going back to Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and Sean Manaea, these types of pitchers had a tad more success navigating the Royals system while getting to the big leagues in the process. With that change, the Royals should be looking strongly at prep arm Jacob Heatherly.
As of November, Perfect Game ranked the lefty as the 23rd best overall prospect, while Baseball America placed him as the sixth best high school draft product with MLB Pipeline placing him at 17 on their list. That doesn’t quite tell the tale for the Alabama product from powerhouse Cullman high school. The lefty features a fastball with good fade that he can run into the mid-90s while working mostly in the low-90s. As a pitcher, he’s able to work the fastball on both sides of the plate, something that is rare as most high school products tend to try to stay away from hitters and are then forced to change that game plan once in pro ball. This won’t be a problem for this lefty as he’s accustomed to manipulating the pitch with fade and varying speeds.
Aside from the fastball, Heatherly features a hard slider that he works in the low-80s and a 12-6 curveball in the low- to mid-70s. Opinions vary on which of the two breaking balls is better with the slider currently favored, but the curveball is looking like the better product long term. The control/command profile is above average and the body is that of a future 200+ inning workhorse who I can’t help but compare to Jon Lester despite Heatherly modeling his game after Clayton Kershaw.
When comparing Heatherly to the rest of the prep class, his 6’3″ 200 lbs. body is much different than that of the tall and lean frames of Hans Crouse, Blayne Enlow, Trevor Rogers and top prospect Hunter Greene. It’s that body that stands out to me as one that will be able to handle the rigors of pro ball while also being able to maintain current velocity if not adding to it in the future. With the body along with fastball and breaking balls in tow, the next work will be that of finding a grip on his changeup that is both reliable and useful for him. From a conversation I had with him the other day, that is already in the works, with the 18-year-old currently working with a two-seam grip with fade and four-seam with sink. That work ethic and attention to detail he provided me should serve him well in the future while being a strong addition to the Royals should Lonnie Goldberg take him with the 14th overall pick.
Look for an interview with Jacob Heatherly as we get closer to the draft.
Pic via Cullman Baseball Twitter