BBB 2017 Top Prospect Countdown #23: Ben Heller
Acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade last summer, right0handed pitcher Ben Heller comes in at number 23 on the BBB top prospect list. We saw a little bit of Heller last season in the Bronx when he made his Major League debut near the end of August. Heller will come to Spring Training eying a spot in the Yankees’ 2017 bullpen.
Photo Credit: MLB.com
Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft, Heller was sent to Cleveland’s High-A Mahoning Valley in the New York Penn League to make his professional debut. Heller appeared in 21 games and made his only professional start while playing for Mahoning Valley, posting a 3.13 ERA. Heller also finished with a 1-3 record and two saves in 37.1 innings pitched.
Heller earned a promotion in the Indians’ farm system every year and ended up reaching the Indians’ AAA level in 2016 before eventually being shipped to the Yankees alongside Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen for Andrew Miller at the trade deadline. Heller appeared in six games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before his call up, posting a 1.42 ERA in the process. Heller posted a 3-3 record to go along with a 1.69 ERA across 48 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016. While Heller wasn’t used in many high leverage situations in his first taste in the majors, he could possibly be used more in those situations in the future if he can improve his command more.
Heller, at 6’3” and 205 pounds, has a big fastball that sits at 97 MPH and occasionally can hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. The 25-year-old also has a dipping, snapping slider that sits at 82-83 MPH and can give batters headaches. He has improved both his mechanics and matured as he has moved through minors and with the makeup to be a closer, Heller can be a valuable asset out of the bullpen.
As mentioned earlier, Heller has a chance to make the team out of Spring Training. With Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren as four locks for the bullpen, that still leaves around four other spots in the Yankees’ bullpen. But, with so many good arms coming to Spring Training as well, Heller will have some competition. Heller is expected to compete with relievers like Jonathan Holder, Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve, J.P. Feyereisen and possibly a starter or two such as Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, and Luis Severino in the event that a few of them don't win the two open rotation spots in Spring Training.
Unless Heller has a very impressive Spring Training, he might be ticketed for Triple-A to begin the season. While that may not be what Heller wants to happen, a call-up would most likely not be far off in the future. Whether Heller starts the season in the Yankees bullpen or not, expect him to be part of that Scranton-Shuttle we have grown to love over the years.
Article By: Julian Bussells