The Arrow Is Pointing Up on Ryon Healy
Ryon Healy has been quite a find for the Oakland Athletics. He was a solid prospect, albeit an unexciting one. According to Baseball America, Healy was never a top-10 prospect in the A's system, checking in 13th, 22nd and 23rd from 2013 through 2015.
While he was far from being a non-prospect, he was just as far from being a sure thing. But Healy has certainly outplayed the projections of a prospect who sits outside of an organization's top 10.
Let's take a look at what he's done over the past calendar year for the A's, because it's been very impressive.
A Great Start
Healy broke into the majors last season and was on fire for 72 games. Over those contests, he slashed .305/.337/.524 with a 134 wRC+. He was definitely good, but the sample was simply too small to make any certain claims on Healy going forward.
However, a lot of his debut performance has carried into this year. In all, it has given him a 135-game sample -- nearly entire baseball season -- and the numbers are pretty darn good.
The two things that pop out the most are his falling BABIP and wRC+. His .352 BABIP from 2016 was most likely unsustainable, and it turned out to be, which has led to his batting average dropping from .305 to .276. However, he countered the loss in average with an increase in ISO. He already has more home runs this year (15) than he did last year (13), and it is a big reason why his wRC+ is still above average.
This has given him a very solid career line of .294/.324/.528 with 28 home runs and a 129 wRC+ in almost a full season's worth of plate appearances. His BABIP has evened out to a .341 clip, and his ISO sits at .234. His career stat line so far might be a good barometer what a full season of Ryon Healy may look like.
Healy's batted-ball profile for 2017 features several positive signs that he can maintain his solid play this season.
His hard-hit rate is up from 30.0% his rookie year to 39.9% this year. His soft-hit rate is down from 19.5% to 14.2%. If he keeps the soft contact to a minimum the way he has done this season, he is in good shape to sustain his nice offensive numbers.
Healy is hitting more fly balls (38.8% last season up to 43.4%), less ground balls (41.6% down to 37.4%), and posting a nearly identical line-drive rates (19.6% and 19.2%).
Everything is trending in the right direction.
His line-drive, ground-ball and fly-ball rates say two things -- his rookie season had a certain level of luck to it, but his output this season is much more sustainable. He is hitting the ball in the air much more, and he's hitting the ball harder more often. That's good.
Compared to His Peers
Healy stacks up very well against his positional competition. He saw all of his playing time at third base his rookie year, but he has split time at the two corner infield spots in 2017 while also logging a few games as the team's designated hitter.
Over the last calendar year, Healy's wRC+ puts him in impressive territory at each position (although he only has enough defensive innings to qualify at third base).
At the hot corner, his 129 wRC+ is fourth among all third baseman, slotting behind some guys named Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner and Kris Bryant. That's some nice company. At first base, if he were qualified, his wRC+ would be good for eighth, sandwiched in between Hanley Ramirez teammate Yonder Alonso. If he were qualified among designated hitters, his wRC+ would rank fifth, right above teammate Khris Davis.
Healy's bat plays at all these positions. He is not excellent defensively by any means -- his career Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) at third base, per FanGraphs, is -13.6 -- but manager Bob Melvin has moved him around to keep his bat in the lineup.
His offensive output makes up for his defensive shortcomings and has helped him put up 1.6 Wins Above Replacement in 136 career games, according to FanGraphs.
Healy's batted-ball numbers tell us that this season is sustainable, and he's capable of making improvements at the big-league level. He is another member of the fly-ball revolution, changing his swing in the minor leagues, and it has put him in a position to be a key member of the Athletics' core going forward.