San Bernardino, California —— Grant Heyman doesn’t look like the same guy I watched in Visalia last year.
The Arizona Diamondbacks outfield prospect, back with the High-A Visalia Rawhide of the California League in 2017, is far more physically imposing than I remember him from a year ago, and his power numbers have adjusted accordingly in what’s fast becoming his breakout season. Still 23 years old and age appropriate for the level, and finding himself in a relatively weak farm system by way of impact prospects overall, the sum total of Heyman’s stellar summer is beginning to flip him into an interesting fringe prospect on which one ought to keep an eye.
Through his first 80 games in Visalia this season, entering play on Saturday night, Heyman is slashing .259/.307/.475/.782, enjoying career highs already in doubles (18), home runs (14) and slugging percentage. There’s a lot of improvement still to come, of course; Heyman has walked just 14 times in 305 at-bats, and he’s struck out 118 times already, a significant increase compared to even relatively high strikeout totals from a year ago. But the corner outfielder is finally starting to do exactly what a guy in his role should be doing—hitting for power—and his significantly improved physicality from last summer tells me his pop isn’t just a Cal League mirage.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Grant Heyman enjoyed a three-hit, two-homer game on Friday night when I had my camera on in San Bernardino:
That’s five at-bats from Friday night, including the Arizona Diamondbacks prospect’s two easy, smooth home runs to right center-field. His breakout isn’t tied to one game alone, of course, but Heyman is starting to surge—13 hits and four walks in his last ten games—and the bigger trend surrounding his exceptional raw power ought to put him on the radar. (Also, if you want more videos like this, please click here and subscribe to the Baseball Census YouTube channel.)
So what does the future hold for Heyman? To be fair, the strikeout issues (and lack of patience at the plate) he’s experiencing now may yet doom him in the upper minors, but I like his overall approach at the plate more this year than I did a season ago and I’m surprised his strikeout and walk totals aren’t more favorable than they are. He’s had success early in his career hitting for average despite lower-than-ideal walk rates, and I think it speaks to a pretty decent contact profile mixed with a below-average feel for the strike zone. Those two traits don’t show up together very often, and may partly speak to the Diamondbacks’ notably aggressive hitting philosophies being taught at this level.
But the signs of improvement are there: not only has Heyman bulked up considerably to aid his power profile, his swing mechanics are simpler with less frills than they were a year ago. The outfielder has truly become a drop-the-bat-head lefty if there ever were one, and that easy power will play down the road if he can only manage to more consistently get on base when he’s not hitting the ball into the gaps and over the fence. That task is easier said than done, of course, and Grant Heyman is in for a few big tests in Double-A and Triple-A the next few years, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have themselves an interesting sleeper here that may yet turn into something.
He’s also pretty good at handling the infinite mini-adversities of the minor leagues:
Found out that I'm the first player in baseball history to strikeout 5 times in one game and then go 5 for 5 the next day. #bittersweetstat
— Grant Heyman (@grantheyman23) July 10, 2017
Seriously — don’t overlook that. It’s a remarkable achievement and alone speaks to his mentality. Watch out for Grant Heyman; as is the case with so many High-A guys, he could well turn into nothing remarkable, but he’s starting to put together the physical tools and game outcomes that might just give himself a legitimate shot at The Show.