Blue Jays’ hidden assets – Gunnar Heidt
By Craig Borden
Jays Journal takes a dive into the Blue Jays Minor League System to point out some players that you might want to keep an eye on. During this edition we will focus on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats current third baseman Gunnar Heidt
Gunnar Heidt was the Toronto Blue Jays 13th round pick in the 2014 amateur draft. He was selected out of the College of Charleston the home of the Cougars as a Senior. The Blue Jays selected him after he had a phenomenal season with the Cougars. As an infielder he led the team with a .327 batting average. He also mashed 40 doubles and seven triples, while driving in 54 RBIs.
Heidt has always been known for having plus pop at the plate. The hard line drives jump off his bat and he has excellent coverage to all fields. In his Pro debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays, he would play just six games with the club, and had six hits and four RBIs before heading up to Vancouver. With the Canadians, he settled in to every day baseball and was rather productive, despite a .264 batting average. He would score 15 runs and drive in 15 RBI while collecting 11 extra base hits. His ability to grind at the plate and put in a great effort every game was noticed early.
In 2015, he struggled to put things back together at the plate and in the field as he was moved all around the diamond. He appeared to be heading toward the super utility role as a player, as he batted just .208 in 111 games between the Canadians and the Single A Lansing Lugnuts. Onto 2016 where he appeared to find a home at 3rd base. Heidt’s natural position was shortstop, so his natural abilities translated well to 3rd. Heidt had the reputation for having one of the better gloves within the Jays organization. His great instincts from normally manning the keystone of the infield played in his favour, and a solid arm were perfect for 3rd.
Now with a solid position for his handy glove work, he took time to work with Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Kenny Graham to put the great line drive stroke of his to good use. Heidt and Graham refined his approach at the plate and it paid off. Heidt worked hard and in his first 57 games with the Lugnuts, and in 2016 he hit .270 with tons of production. He would hit 15 doubles, three triples, and four home runs on his way to driving in 21 runs. He also showed off his athleticism with 13 steals and scoring 29 runs himself. His early showing in 2016 earned him a call up to Dunedin to finish the season.
His season continued to pick up pace in Dunedin with the Blue Jays as he continued to rake at the plate. He showed little adjustment issues as he played in 50 games and batted .256. The extra base hits continued to pour in as he popped five home runs to go along with 15 doubles. The one area that Heidt was having issues with was strikeouts to this point in his career, and it’s still an issue today. In 2016, he played a total of 107 games and took 101 K’s while walking 43 times. This is typical of power hitters but is also a product taking pitchers to deep counts.
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Onto this season where he has been playing with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Do not be fooled with the low batting average that is currently hanging at .227. His BABIP (Batting Average on Ball In Play) is a nice .302. This is basically the league average, which shows that he may not be getting as lucky at the plate as some other players. Regardless of these new fancy saber metric numbers, Heidt has been extremely productive at the plate. He has 11 home runs on the season thus far to go with 17 doubles. This has translated to 38 RBIs and 46 runs scored over 96 games. Once again the strike out numbers may be keeping him from seeing the best pitchers possible, as he has been sat down 109 times in those games. He has walked 33 times and has a .300 On-Base %. Seeing some better pitches could lead to getting that OPS up to a more stable spot.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Heidt with the Lugnuts and the Fisher Cats over the past two seasons, and his swing is impressive and I really enjoy how he plays the game. I recently saw him play in two games vs the Portland Seadogs at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, NH. He has a great presence on the field and you can tell he is having fun out on the diamond. Most great players tend to be the characters in a dugout/ locker room from my experience. He has a lovely swing which you can see in a video below that I shot while I was witnessing a Fisher Cats blow out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
This season Gunnar Heidt was one of five Fisher Cats to make it to the All-Star team. He also put on a show during the home run derby where he hit targets to win a Tempur-Pedic Pillow.
Gunnar Heidt has plenty of upside and Blue Jays fans should be on notice as he continues to refine his craft. His ability to make hard contact will carry him far, but he could become something truly great with his character and work ethic if he can find a way to see better pitches. He has all the tools to play incredible defense anywhere in the infield but has looked great at 3rd. His bat continues to improve and he will get a shot soon enough for everyone to see.
I am a life long Jays fan and from what I have seen from Gunnar Heidt reminds me of Reed Johnson at the plate. Reed Johnson was a pest to opposing pitchers that always hit the ball on the screws. His speed and prowess with the bat made him a great Blue Jay in a time where the team needed someone to stand up. I expect Heidt to be one of those guys that continues to fly under the radar until he has the opportunity with everyone watching to make a splash.