Kurt Heyer: Seeking to Go from College World Series Champ to the Majors
The St. Louis Cardinals have received recognition in recent seasons because of the excellent pitching prospects that have been winding their way through their minor league system. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Lance Lynn have all received a lot of attention and varying levels of success and exposure at the major league level. It appears that another young gun was added to their stockpile of arms last year when the team drafted right-hander Kurt Heyer.
Heyer was a star for Edison High School in California, going 11-3 with a 0.84 ERA as a senior. Naturally, he had a number of options following graduation. However, he decided to attend the University of Arizona, which ended up being a great decision.
As a freshman for the Wild Cats, Heyer became the team’s top starter, leading the team with a 3.26 ERA and 109 strikeouts. He followed that up with a 2.41 ERA and 134 punchouts as a sophomore.
Heyer’s junior season proved to be truly special. He went 13-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 153 innings, earning a place on the 2012 watch list for the Golden Spikes Award; annually given to the nation’s best collegiate player. His production was also instrumental in Arizona winning the College World Series and finishing one of the best seasons in school history.
The Cardinals made the accomplished pitcher their sixth-round selection in last year’s draft.
Pitching primarily with a high-80s fastball and a slider, some believe Heyer projects better as a reliever at the next level, according to a Baseball America scouting report:
“Heyer pitches with a fastball in the 86-89 mph range and an average slider. He shows an occasional changeup and curveball, but mostly sticks to his two main pitches and relies on his above-average control and command. Heyer has some funkiness to his delivery, but shows exceptional work ethic, competitiveness and toughness. Heyer has been very successful as a starter at Arizona–he ranked second in the Pac-10 in strikeouts last year and ranks second again this year–but scouts believe his two-pitch repertoire and aggressive demeanor profile better in the bullpen as a pro.”
After signing, Heyer appeared in four games in stops at two levels in the low minors for the Cardinals. He allowed six hits and three runs in six innings, while striking out nine.
He figures to establish himself in the organization with a full season this year. If he pitches the way he did in college, he will soon join the ranks of accomplished St. Louis pitching prospects and be well on his way to the majors.
Kurt Heyer Interview:
If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: I would love to pick the brain of Roy Halladay because he knows how to locate all his pitches and change speeds. He relies on movement and not on velocity.
What kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams prior to the 2012 MLB Draft?: I was being contacted by many teams and they stayed in close contact with me. It felt no different than being recruited from colleges when I was in high school.
Can you run through what Draft Day is like?: There was a lot of mixed emotions that day. I was excited but at the same time I had to focus on regionals because that was more important.
What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: I have a four-pitch mix. Fastball, slider, curveball and a changeup. I really want to focus on my changeup because to be a big league pitcher, you need that to survive.
What was it like winning a college World Series with Arizona?: It was incredible. Just the whole experience was awesome. Now I want to focus and help the Cardinals win the World Series in 2013.
What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the St. Louis organization?: I’m a competitor on the mound. You know what you are gonna get with me. I get stronger as the game progresses. I know what it takes to win.
Is there any one thing that you have been asked to work on the most?: Nothing specific. They told me to come to spring training healthy and ready to compete for a spot.
What are you looking forward to the most for the 2013 season?: I’m just excited about starting my professional career, and I have high expectations my first year. I want to make an immediate impact in the Cardinals organization.
Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew.