When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired left-hander Andrew Heaney at the literal beginning of the offseason (a deal was signed bizarrely quickly!), they became the latest in a long line of intellectual franchises who believed they could fix him.
How hard could it be, really? He has the first-round pedigree. He has plenty of experience. He surely lost his way wasting away with non-playoff-bound Angels teams, and all it should take to maximize his skills is an analytically-driven pitching coach who can eliminate his pain points and emphasize what he does so well.
The only problem? Figuring out exactly what that is.
The Statcast metrics show Heaney carries elite fastball spin (90th percentile) and above-average curveball spin (67th), and yet he continues to get drilled at every stop (32nd percentile hard-hit percentage, 21st in barrel percentage, cold snaps across the board in 2021).
Heaney may very well be a lesson that not every pitcher with impressive fastball spin is unlockable. Perhaps his arsenal is too predictable? Perhaps he just doesn’t have what it takes to locate consistently? Whatever the case, his Dodgers debut on Tuesday looked exactly like the Heaney of the recent past.
Andrew Heaney’s Dodgers debut was Andrew Heinous
According to the Dodgers’ plan, their goal is to piggyback several of their fringe starting pitchers — like Tyler Anderson, Tony Gonsolin, Danny Duffy and Heaney — in the early going, doling out three or four inning stints.
In that case, Dave Roberts should probably deploy Heaney first so no one else resents him for messing up their clean sheet.
Roberts “doesn’t consider [Heaney] a work in progress” — so, in that case, what you see may be fairly close to what you get. A scuffling lefty with decent velocity who doesn’t blow anyone away, seemingly has untapped spin, but never, ever taps it. He’s 30 years old. There might not be that much more left to unlock.
Unless … it really is this easy?
No. It can’t be. They have to have tried that already. There must be some element of stubbornness holding Heaney back from being The Changeup King.
Perhaps everything he touches too much eventually swings back to “predictable”. If you thought the Dodgers could fix Heaney in one fell swoop, Tuesday should’ve broken your stride just a little bit.