At first glance, Ryon Healy appears to be a simple case: dude can rake LHPs, flails at too many sliders against RHPs, does not help you with his feet or glove, has severe walk allergies for which an epipen has yet to be invented, seems like a great guy.
Thing is, as the A’s contemplate a direction going forward, one that could move Khris Davis to DH or keep him in LF, one that could incorporate out-of-option Healy-like prospect Renato Nuñez, Oakland has to make a decision about Healy that is somewhat complex. Let’s look at the pros and cons…
As bad as he can look at times, Healy can hit big league pitching and he can hit it hard. With the sample now at 221 games (nearly 1.5 full seasons), Healy is a career .282 hitter with 38 career HRs (a 28/season average).
For those wondering if these numbers are sustainable, one key indicator that they are is that the eyeball test and the numbers corroborate that Healy flat out hits the ball hard when he hits it. Healy’s career BABIP is .329 which, to put it in perspective, is slightly better than Carlos Correa’s career .326, and in 2017 bested the likes of Joey Votto’s (.321) and Mike Trout (.318). (We won’t talk about Jose Altuve’s .370 BABIP this season because that’s just obscene. Obscenely awesome, that is.) Yes, Healy will strike out a lot but when he hits the ball he hits it legitimately hard enough to maintain a solid batting average and slugging.
Though he is an unmitigated disaster at 3B, at 1B Healy looked increasingly solid at 1B this season and according to Fangraphs was even a ticky-tick above average there (+1 DRS, +0.6 UZR/150). If you can pencil Healy in as an average defensive 1Bman, that’s useful depth to have even if you anticipate giving Matt Olson the full time gig.
The A’s have struggled significantly recently against LHPs and there is no doubt that Healy mashes LHPs. In 2017, Healy batted a robust .314/.347/.526 and for his career he now sits at .314/.343/.534.
Healy is still young, at age 25 with less than 2 years of big league experience under his belt. While you may or may not predict he will make adjustments and improvements, he is at an age and experience level where often the best is yet to come. A simple adjustment (GET 2” CLOSER TO THE PLATE!!!!!) or slight uptick in discipline or pitch recognition could launch Healy into the next level of hitting, and that’s coming from a baseline of batting .282 with 28 HR/162 games.
Healy is part of the young core that has grown up together, bonded together, and won together. One doesn’t want to be too quick to break up part of the core (which includes Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Bruce Maxwell, and Chad Pinder), and by all accounts Healy is well liked and respected in the clubhouse.
Healy is incredibly affordable, earning league minimum. Rarely can a team get 25 HR production for just about $20,000 a dinger. Not only that but with only 1.08 years of service time on his clock Healy will cost-controlled and highly affordable for several years.
If you’re thinking the A’s can replace Healy with Nuñez, remember that while Healy has options remaining Nuñez does not, so Nuñez requires more of a firm commitment to a permanent roster spot. Yet Nuñez comes with no guarantee of being able to match Healy’s big league production, just the guarantee that if Healy is mediocre defensively Nuñez is a little worse, and if Healy is slow Nuñez is a little slower. Nuñez’ big weakness in the minors? Plate discipline. Advantage: Healy, Healy, Healy, and Healy.
That’s a lot of important positives on Healy’s ledger. Unfortunately, there are some important negatives to weigh as well.
Healy’s BB rate is so low that despite hitting a career .282 his career OBP currently sits at an uninspiring .313. 2/3 of the pitchers are right-handed and against those bullies Healy’s OBP is an alarming .304.
Perhaps most worrisome, in projecting Healy, is that his two weaknesses (which are somewhat intertwined) are among those least apt to improve over time. One is that Healy has little to no plate discipline, and hacktastic hitters seldom wake up one day and suddenly become selective. The other is that Healy simply does not recognize a slider in time to refrain from flailing at it as it leaves the strike zone. Known in medical terms as BCS (Bobby Crosby Syndrome), even the finest surgeons have yet to perfect a procedure that improves this condition. So if Healy’s lack of patience and inability to read breaking balls out of the zone are “deal breakers” they are likely ones that will break deals going forward.
Without speed, and topping out defensively as “possibly average at a relatively easy position,” Healy’s value is heavily tied into his bat and against 2/3 of the pitchers that bat is average (.271/.304/.456, 102 wRC+ career against RHPs).
Healy’s presence in the lineup has a domino effect that causes the A’s to get worse elsewhere. Putting him at 1B either moves Olson to the bench or puts him in RF where he is much less valuable defensively, but putting Healy at DH forces Khris Davis to do battle with The Creature in LF (or be traded). By committing to Olson every day at 1B, moving Davis to DH, and filling LF with a good defensive player, the A’s can have elite power along with excellent defense – addition by subtraction, if you will. (Will you?)
So there’s the case for Ryon Healy, along side the case against Ryon Healy. Which argument sways you more and why?
How do you rule?
This poll is closed
Verdict in favor of keeping Ryon Healy
Guilty verdict: Healy is odd man out