Under the new draft rules, less than sexy college prospects who will sign for less than slot money can help give teams wiggle room with their spending pools. One player who could fit that profile is Oregon's line drive hitting first baseman, Ryon Healy.
Ryon Healy is a long, lanky corner infielder with underrated athleticism who has a reputation as a pure contact hitter. Standing 6'5" and weighing in around 225 lbs. He has a smooth swing from the right side and he shows excellent plate coverage. His college stats reflect his prowess as a contact hitter, as in both his freshman and sophomore seasons he has hit over .310. However, his power has been lacking (just 8 home runs combined between those two seasons) and he has played exclusively first base as a duck. Does Healy have untapped potential, or is he merely a David Cooper clone whose lack of power and defensive versatility will doom him to a bench role? Let's take a look.
Watching Healy at the plate, it's hard not to be impressed. He has a real knack for squaring up the ball and his swing mechanics are smooth and consistent with few moving parts. His hands and wrists are fantastic and he can get to pitches all over the zone. This sometimes almost works against him, as he'll reach for pitches he can hit that most hitters can't rather than waiting for pitches he can drive- Jose Altuve has had similar tendencies at times. Even though he has been a rather aggressive hitter, the lack of swing and miss in his game has kept his strikeout rates low and his walk rate is trending up.
Few doubt Healy's contact ability, but he comes with multiple concerns. First of all, he's been exclusively a first baseman in college, but he's not necessarily stuck there for good. He's a good athlete for his size, and as a pitcher in high school he sat between 88-92 MPH with his fastball. These traits suggest that he might have a chance to play 3B in the pros, and at the very least he'll get a long look there. The ability to play the hot corner would be a boon to Healy's value, as there is much less prejudice against players with lacking power at that position than at first base.
The second issue that has capped Healy's value to this point is his perceived lack of power. And while it is true that he has struggled to show significant pop so far in college, he has the look of a player with some pop. He has a tall, somewhat thick frame that he is continuing to grow into, and his bat gets through the zone fairly quickly. When he was in high school, many projected Healy to hit for power down the line, but after his .419 SLG in his sophomore season many abandoned that thought. However, the ball comes off his bat with a crack that few players can reproduce, and power is often the last skill to develop in prospects. Early in 2013, Healy has racked up 3 doubles and a home run in 7 games, good for a pretty .240 ISO, suggesting that perhaps his power is beginning to blossom. He certainly doesn't have 70 grade raw pop, but projecting Healy as a slap hitter undersells his upside significantly.
All in all, Healy is a player with one great tool (hit) that buoys his value, and some potential for growth in other areas that could make him a great value come draft day. At the end of the day he's a likely first baseman who doesn't fit the traditional power/patience profile, but the skills are in place for him to become an offensive threat at some point down the line.
At worst, Healy will not develop any more power than he has already shown and will be stuck at first base from day one, and will struggle to crack a major league roster as a David Cooper-type player who bounces back and forth acting as a primarily an off-day 1B/DH and pinch hitter.
Even those who are high on Healy's power potential don't see him as a big power hitter, but it's definitely possible he could stick at third for at least the early portion of his career and his bat there could play very well, and perhaps make him an above-average regular. His bat at the hot corner could be reminiscent of a player like Martin Prado, though he'll never offer that kind of defensive versatility.
Projected Draft Round
As a college player, Healy is sure to get looks as early as the 4th round due to the new draft spending system as he's likely to be signable for under slot. He could go any time between rounds 3 and 10, and I'd say his likely range is somewhere between rounds 4 and 6.
Will he sign?
I think so. He's off to a blistering start this year, and if he continues to post career best numbers, this season will likely be the peak for his draft stock.
Some shots of Healy's swing from multiple angles, including slow motion shots.
Some in-game shots of Healy's swing from the front side.
Do I think there’s more power there than the stats say? I sure do. I always, always trust my ears first, and I firmly believe that raw power with hand-eye coordination means a guy has a chance to do good things in the big leagues. When he’s going good, he’s very short to the ball, and can drive it. But what strikes me most is how much better this guy has become in college, and how I don’t think he’s done developing.
Oregon won't put up gaudy power numbers in its pitcher-friendly home ballpark, but this team will be more physical than recent editions. Healy continues to make progress unlocking his intriguing righthanded power potential, and he has a good all-fields approach.