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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #52: Nick Heath

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The “throwing things at the wall to see what sticks” series continues with Nick Heath.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Rating: 2.22
  • Age: turns 28 on November 27th
  • 2021 Stats: 20 G, 39 PA, 5 H, 4 BB, 1 double, 15 K’s
  • 2021 Earnings: Pre-arbitration
  • 2022 Status: not currently on 40-man roster

The Arizona Diamondbacks struggled with outfield depth right out of the gate. Kole Calhoun went down with a hamstring injury before the first game of the season. Calhoun attempted to rehab conservatively and returned a few games into the start of the year, but it would continue to nag him eventually requiring surgery and even cause some compensation injuries later on. Ketel Marte strained his right hamstring just a few days later once official play had begun. Just like that the team was missing two of their three starting outfielders and what was expected to be two of their biggest offensive contributors. That left Mike Hazen scrambling to find anybody with a pulse who could track down a fly ball successfully.

Tim Locastro was thrust into a starting role in center field. Josh Rojas, Pavin Smith, and Wyatt Mathisen all logged time in the outfield, but it proved difficult to find a day off for David Peralta due to the inexperience around him. They tried to give him a breather by playing rookie Andrew Young in left field on April 15th. It was immediately obvious that was not going to work, and so the search continued externally. Josh Reddick was signed as a minor league free agent and did not make his first appearance in a D’backs uniform until late May.

Enter Nick Heath into the fold. The Kansas City Royals designated Heath for assignment on April 14th, and Arizona picked him up in a trade sending minor league pitcher Eduardo Herrera to Kansas City in return. His MLB experience consisted of 15 games with the Royals in 2020. His strongest skill was his baserunning and ability to successfully steal bases. Through four minor league seasons in the Royals’ organization, he successfully swiped 160 bases and was caught stealing 40 times, an 80% success rate. Because he bats from the left side of the plate, he could platoon with Tim Locastro in center field. While it is nearly impossible to be as fast as Locastro, consistently one of the quickest in the game, Nick’s sprint speed of 29.1 ft/s places him in the 94th percentile of players.

Unfortunately, his 2021 review arguably begins and ends with his first game of the season with Arizona on April 18th against the Washington Nationals. That is because of his five hits through twenty MLB games on the season, three of them came in that game alone. Despite leading the team in hits that game, he scored and drove in zero runs in a 5-2 victory hardly adding any win probability per FanGraphs. That previously mentioned ability to successfully steal bases failed to manifest during his time with the ball club as he was caught stealing twice with no successful attempts.

Where he lacked in his ability at the plate, he made up for in the outfield. Prior to Nick’s arrival, Pavin Smith had a few appearances in center field to give Locastro an occasional rest. Pavin’s lack of speed and outfield experience prevented him from making plays such as this one below made by Heath.

You might remember that play came during the first game of a dominating double header against the Atlanta Braves in which Zac Gallen and Madison Bumgarner held the eventual World Series Champions to only a single hit over fourteen innings on April 25th. One week later, he was optioned to to AAA Reno where he would shuttle to and from a few times during the season. Arizona eventually designated Nick for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster on July 10th and he was outrighted to AAA after not being claimed by another team.

While I am a huge fan of Nick Heath being that I love a speedy outfielder who can cause havoc on the bases, I would be lying to you if I said he was anything more than organizational depth in case of injury emergency much like we saw in 2021. The reality is that there are too many younger and more talented outfield prospects in the organization that will prevent him from maintaining an everyday starting role with the Diamondbakcs barring significant improvement at the plate from him. He will be 28 years old in just a few days and does not have the ability to get on base to use that speed as well as Tim Locastro was able to. Might I suggest standing closer to the plate and attract baseballs to the body like a magnet as Timmy-Lo did?