In last year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, the state of Alabama produced the first left-handed pitcher selected when the Miami Marlins drafted Braxton Garrett seventh overall. The state might yield the top lefty again this year, as Alabama native Jacob Heatherly is one of the top prep pitchers in the 2017 draft class.
A University of Alabama recruit, Heatherly is not a typical high school pitcher. With advanced command and four solid offerings, MLB.com ranks Heatherly as the 17th-best prospect in June’s MLB Draft.
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Heatherly is a left-handed hurler with a higher ceiling than most high school pitchers. With a strong performance this spring, he’ll likely be the first prep left-hander drafted.
But like other high-profile draft prospects, he’s leaving the draft pressure for others to worry about.
“I know that it’s there, but I try not to worry about it and just have fun,” Heatherly said. “Enjoy my senior season and just win a state championship. The rest will take care of itself if I do what I’m supposed to do. Just try not to worry about it and do my thing.”
A fierce competitor on the mound, Heatherly possesses a four-pitch mix, featuring a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. All four pitches are at least average offerings, which is unusual for a prep pitcher to have.
He only threw a fastball, curveball and changeup until last spring when he developed the slider, which he believes has only helped his effectiveness on the mound.
“The more pitches you have, the better it is,” Heatherly said. “I’ve been working on all four of them. I like having a four-pitch arsenal because it’s more weapons to use against the hitter.”
He locates his pitches well and isn’t afraid to attack hitters inside. While he has quality secondary offerings, he said his mid-90s fastball is his best pitch.
“It has a lot of movement,” said Heatherly about his fastball. “The velocity has been going up more and more as it goes on. My fastball is electric.”
After displaying his skills on the showcase circuit against many of the other top prep players in the 2017 class last summer, Heatherly spent the off-season refining his curveball.
“I mainly worked on my curveball, trying to get it sharper and tighter,” Heatherly said.
While he isn’t focused on his individual success, Heatherly hopes his pitches continue to progress this spring. He also wants to have a memorable senior season by leading his team to a state title.
“I just want to win a state championship with my teammates,” Heatherly said. “I want to have a lot of fun. But, I also hope I have a good year and strikeout a lot of guys. I don’t really set goals for myself. I just want to have fun.”
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