Sunday, June 30, 2013

Random Prospect of the Day: Ross Heffley

Welcome back to one of Walk-Off Walk's first ongoing segments, the Random Prospect of the Day.  As of today, there are 162 players who have received an at-bat in the Braves minor league system.  Using random.org, I got the number for Ross Heffley.  Let's meet him.

Not the best home run stare in the world, Ross.

Ross Heffley was born in Georgia back in January of 1990 and helped to lead Brookwood High to a 2008 State Championship, even going so far to hit a walk-off jack in the state finals.  After numerous accolades in Gwinnett County, Heffley accepted an offer to attend Western Carolina University and was an immediate performer for the Catamounts, being named the 2009 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.  Kid hit .391 with a 1.009 OPS, ridiculous considering he only hit four home runs.  Not too shabby for a guy who generously was listed at 5'8".  Us short guys have to love the short ballplayers.

His sophomore year was quite solid, though not nearly to the level of his freshman year.  He made up for it with his All-American 2011 campaign.  He hit .419 with 11 homers and a Bondsian 1.142 OPS.   Fun fact.  His average never fell under .384.  Yeah, I'd say he had a good season.  In 53 games, he had more than one hit 33 times.  He batted ten times in an epic 20-inning thriller against Elon in the Southern Conference Tournament, hitting a two-run bomb to put Western Carolina ahead.

Much like his sophomore year "letdown," Heffley wasn't quite as awesome during his senior year, but did walk an astounding 35 times to 14 K's.  He left Western Carolina with the most hits in school history.  That June, the Braves made him the 569th player taken when they grabbed him in the 18th round.  Heffley wasn't the first Catamount the Braves have selected in recent years.  They took Chris Masters in 2009 and notably selected Charles Thomas in 2000.

Heffley skipped rookie ball, settling into Rome and made an immediate impact.  Rome, which had languished through a terrible first-half, inserted Heffley at second  in the field and in the lineup and had a much more productive second half, winning 44 games after winning just 18 during the first half.  Heffley played a significant role in that effort, posting a .751 OPS with .328 wOBA.  He was also praised for his defense.

The move to Lynchburg this season brought Heffley some considerable trouble.  He hit just .218 with an OPS under .600.  Difficult to keep plodding about with production like that.  A few weeks ago, Heffley was demoted back to Rome in efforts to shake his season-long troubles.

Dan Uggla is signed through 2015 so there is time for Heffley to insert himself into the Braves' future, but beyond a failed attempt to conquer high-A ball, Heffley is not the top second-base prospect in the Braves organization currently.  That honor falls on Tommy La Stella, drafted from Coastal Carolina in 2011 and currently in his first season at Mississippi, though he's hurt right now.  La Stella was actually hurt to begin the year and opened with a week at Lynchburg before going to Mississippi, where he hit .330 before getting hurt again.  In addition, Heffley's demotion was welcome news for Levi Hyams, who was handling second base duties in Rome and got the call up to Lynchburg.  Drafted a round after Heffley last year out of the University of Georgia, Hyams did his best Heffley 2012 impression at Rome before the callup.

Heffley is a guy to root for.  He's short, needed a dramatic homer at the end of his high school career to even get a scholarship offer, and he's short.  However, he has a lot of work to do before he can become more than organizational filler. 

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