Two years ago, I remember watching Brewers prospect Kyle Heckathorn pitch for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
To be perfectly honest, nothing he did in that game blew me away. Granted, it was dollar beer night so my memory could just be a little hazy. But I do remember I couldn’t help but like him, though I wasn’t sure at the time why I did.
Now, Kyle Heckathorn is quietly climbing the ranks among Brewers pitchers, and proving to be an effective and versatile young arm as a starter and reliever. After a good showing in the Arizona Fall League – when everyone had their eyes on other young Brewers – people should be starting to take notice of Heckathorn.
Kyle Heckathorn was drafted in the first supplemental round of the 2009 draft from Kennasaw State. Since that time, he has been coming through the Brewers system not with overwhelming numbers – at least not the sexy numbers you like to see from pitchers – but with a nearly relentless work ethic and remarkable consistency.
Heckathorn possesses a beast of a fastball – scouts have pegged it at the high 90’s – and a good mix of pitches. His command is excellent, though not in the sense that he will make you swing and miss. He doesn’t miss the plate, but he’s not going to baffle hitters the way other pitchers in the Brewers system can. What he will do is keep the ball down in the zone – and keep that ball in the ballpark.
In 2012, Heckathorn averaged 0.53 Homers per nine innings. Yeah, that’s a real number. Over 119.1 innings of work, the Brewers righty gave up only seven dingers. He also averaged just over two walks per nine. Though his ERA is pegged at 4.75 for the 2012 campaign, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is, and always has been, much lower – a more telling stat for how a pitcher performs without the context of what happens when the ball is put in play. In 2012 his FIP was 3.77
The knock on Heckathorn, if you must make one, is that he simply isn’t a strikeout pitcher. Last year Kyle struck out 16.9% of batters. This isn’t a huge deal considering that pretty much everyone he put on base got left standing there at the end of the inning – well, two thirds of them anyway. His strikeout stuff will come along, and when it does Heckathorn could easily move up a Big League rotation to a number three or number two pitcher. He has the command, the velocity, and the ability to use the ballpark to his advantage.
He seems comfortable with professional-level hitters and performed well in every level he’s gotten to, including the prospect-packed Arizona Fall League. He may not have been on a lot of radars before his trip to Phoenix, but he certainly has the opportunity to turn a lot of heads in 2013.