July 18, 2016
The Situation: The A’s are not very good, and their chances of making the postseason are nope. They’ll now get a chance to take a look at some of the talent in the organization without the worry of October, and one of those talents is first baseman Ryon Healy.
Background: Healy was one of the real risers of the 2013 MLB Draft, seeing his stock increase due to a strong junior season at the University of Oregon that took him from a middle of day three pick to a guy that some thought would go before the end of day one. As so often happens, concerns about taking a first baseman early won out, and he ended up “falling” to the Athletics with their third-round pick that June. After an inauspicious start to his professional career, Healy appeared to turn a corner in 2015 by hitting .302 in Double-A Midland, but he’s been even more impressive in 2016, posting a .940 OPS and hitting .326 in stops at the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues. Those numbers earned him a trip to this year’s Futures Game, and now earn him a call-up to the big show.
Scouting Report: Healy is large—standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in around 230 pounds—but if you think this is your prototypical cold-corner masher, you are mistaken. Healy’s best tool is his hit. There’s a lot of moving parts to his swing and his hands will drift, but his swing plane is excellent, and he gets through the zone quick enough to allow him to make hard contact to all parts of the field. The moving parts will likely give him trouble against better velocity, however, so the hit tool drops from what would be above-average to solid-average. As you would guess from having small forward size, Healy does have some pop, too. He generates it with his lower-half, and even with a flat swing it’s not unreasonable to expect solid-average—maybe even above—when he’s done developing.
The Athletics have used Healy at both first and third this year, but it’s pretty clear the former is where he’s going to make his living. He’s a below-average athlete with so-so hands, and while the arm will play at third, it’s not going to compensate for the problems he has at the hot corner. Obviously the bat plays better at third, but he’s going to cause you a lot less headaches on the other side of the diamond.
Immediate Big-League Future: Healy impressed me in the Futures Game, showing the ability to make adjustments and that his high average the last few seasons isn’t a fluke. He’ll need to show more patience in the box—and adjusting against minor league pitchers is nowhere near the same thing as adjusting against what he’s about to face—but if he can show a semblance of that ability at the highest of levels, he’s got a chance to stick. The most likely landing spot is a guy who mashes lefties in a platoon role at first base, but there’s just enough here that he could possibly be an everyday guy. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: Despite his large frame, Ryon Healy hadn’t shown a ton of power through 2015, keeping him off BP’s Top 101 prospect list and most other prospect lists. Aside from an 11-game stint in rookie ball in 2013, the big corner infielder hadn’t posted a slugging percentage of .500 or better at any level until this season. He did, however, make quite a bit of contact, putting up strikeout rates of less than 16 percent at each stop prior to 2016.
Now 24 years old, it would appear that Healy has traded some contact for power. His strikeout rate rose to 21 percent at Double-A Midland in the Texas League before settling in at 19 percent at Triple-A Nashville in the Pacific Coast League. His slugging percentage spiked to .628 at Midland and leveled off at .505 in Nashville. He hit 14 home runs across those two levels this season, only two away from his single season high set in 2014 in 220-odd fewer plate appearances. His line in Double-A this year was rounded off with a .338 batting average and a .409 on-base percentage, while his line from Triple-A included a .318 batting average and a .362 on-base percentage. Take these numbers with a grain of salt, though. Double-A Midland is extremely hitter friendly, as is the entire Pacific Coast League. Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park will not be nearly as kind to his triple-slash line.
The right-handed-hitting Healy will probably get playing time at third base, first base and designated hitter against lefties for now. He won’t fully displace Danny Valencia at third, but Valencia could easily be moved to a contender before the deadline. First baseman Yonder Alonso might be traded before the deadline as well and, unlike Valencia, Alonso hasn’t hit enough to keep Healy on the bench if he shows he can hit major league pitching. He won’t be an everyday player right away, but with the A’s likely to trade one or both of their corner infielders away by the end of the month, Healy should get a shot at a starting spot as long as he doesn’t look overmatched his first time through the league. This makes him a must-add in AL-only leagues, where he’s likely worth splurging on if you’re not holding back for one of the top crossovers, and very deep mixed leagues, but more of a speculative wait-and-see guy in most mixed formats. However, once the A’s make a trade, all bets are off. —Scooter Hotz
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @CVCrawfordBP