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MLB draft 2017: An interview with Jacob Heatherly

Looking at the left-handed pitcher who might be an option for the Tigers during the draft.

Jacob Heatherly throws a pitch

In an an effort to bring you the best coverage possible in the weeks leading up to the Rule 4 Amateur Draft, Bless You Boys has been sitting down with some of the best talent available to teams this June. The goal is to not only get to know these players better as young talent, but also as people.

Next on the list is left-handed starter Jacob Heatherly, a senior in high school from Alabama. He is rated by Baseball America as being the 39th best player available to teams this June.

The report on Heatherly at MLB.com is rather bullish, describing him as a rare player who is able to combine trademarked lefty finesse with a deep arsenal of above average pitches. This puts him near the top of the class. However, the report on FanGraphs is far less complementary, agreeing with MLB.com on his “heavy, plus fastball” but calling his secondary offerings below average and unimpressive. Where he lands in the draft will be very much a result of which one of these evaluations big league clubs agree with. Sadly, his stock has been on a steep decline this summer, and it is becoming increasingly likely that the only Heatherly teams will ever see is the one described by Fangraphs.

This interview was conducted on the 17th of December, 2016.

Jacob Heatherly Scouting Report

Source Fastball Slider Curve Changeup Control
Source Fastball Slider Curve Changeup Control
MLB.com 55 55 55 55 60
FanGraphs 55 45 45 45 60

Bless You Boys: How long have you been playing baseball?

Jacob Heatherly: I’ve been playing since... I was three years old. Three or four, but I’ll go with three. It’s been a while!

BYB: Have you always pitched?

JH: I have since [I was] eight years old. I didn’t know I was going to be really good at it, but I’ve always had a dream to play professional baseball.

BYB: Who was your favorite team and player growing up?

JH: As far as the favorite team, I’ve always been a Braves fan. While I’ve not always been positive that the Braves were my favorite team, my favorite player is definitely Clayton Kershaw. I’ve always been watching him growing up. No matter who the competition is, he takes care of ‘em.

BYB: When did you realize that a career playing baseball was an actual possibility?

JH: I would say my tenth grade year. I jumped up to Varsity my tenth grade year and moved into the #2 spot on my high school team. I did really good that spring, and I went to summer had a good summer, and I got offered by Alabama that summer and ended up committing there on the spot. From then on it felt like something just clicked. That’s when I realized I could have a really big career if I work at it and stay humble.

BYB: What did it feel like the first time you saw a pro scout at one of your games?

JH: It was kinda surreal, to be honest. I just tried to focus on what I was trying to do during the game, but I was really excited. I saw that opportunity that was in front of me and I just took it and went with it.

BYB: The scouts that I’ve read reports from about you are all impressed on how deep your arsenal is. Which pitch are you most confident in?

JH: I’d say my fastball. It’s got really good velocity on it. I got it up to 95 this summer and I’m seeing a lot more velocity coming up on it this spring. I’ve been working really hard this fall, and I would say my fastball is probably my best pitch. It runs and it sinks well, and it throws hitters off balance.

BYB: Is there anyone in the big leagues that you think your game resembles most?

JH: I would say Clayton Kershaw. That’s always been the guy I’ve liked since I was little, and I see a lot of similarities between me and him.

BYB: That’s an ambitious comparison, but I like that, I like that. I saw that you played in Perfect Game and a few other showcases this summer. Will you describe the showcasing process, please?

JH: I was playing for the Georgia Jackets this summer and I was just trying to settle in with my pitching and then one day I was invited to all these showcases and it got really fun. It was good to go out and play in all these big events. It just seemed kind of surreal to be playing in all these big events. I really liked it; I really enjoyed it.

BYB: Playing in these showcases puts you up against the best talent that there is to offer. Who do you think was the toughest batter you had to face?

JH: I’d say the toughest batter I had to pitch against was Heliot Ramos. He was in the Under Armour game and I would say he’s the toughest I’ve faced. If I had to say the best player, I’d say Hunter Greene. He’s just off the charts in every category of the game. I’d say the toughest hitter, though, was Heliot Ramos.

BYB: Why do you think that Ramos was the tougher batter to face even though Greene is considered to be a far better prospect?

JH: I just think I just put myself in the hole 2-0 on that at-bat. I got to [a 2-2 count] on him, threw a fastball, and I thought I could get by him pretty easy, which I did. On the second pitch I thought I could throw another fastball by him and he ended up getting that one in on the hands on the high and inside fastball. When you get in that count with someone like him, it’s hard to get back out.

BYB: What do you like to do in your free time?

JH: I like to play basketball... but I gave it up this year for baseball, but I really like to shot basketballs in my free time. I always fish. That’s one of my big things, it’s fishing. One of my hobbies is golf, it’s a fun game and I’m learning to play, but my biggest hobby would be fishing for sure.

Thank you to Jacob Heatherly for agreeing to speak with us and for providing the picture used in connection with this article.