Tyler Heineman is a catcher drafted out of UCLA in the 8th round of the 2012 draft by the Houston Astros. Coming out of college, the report on Tyler was he was a great defensive catcher with a very low strikeout rate, which has been accurate so far. He has worked his way through the Astros minor league season and is now in AA.
Here is how he got there:
Heineman got off to a great start in professional ball hitting .358 with 26 BB to only 12 SO in 2012. His first full season of professional ball went well too as he hit .286 with 13 HR, 71 RBI for Lancaster Jethawks. This season, Heineman started with AA affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks. Though he hasn’t hit as well as last year he still possesses the most important tool for a catcher and that is defense.
Tyler Heineman, C, (DOB: 06/19/91)
2014 Stats: 75 G, .246 BA/.334 OBP/.340 SLG, 32 R, 15 2B, 3 3B, HR, 25 RBI, 3 SB, 22 BB/35 SO, 7.5 BB%, 11.9 SO%
AstrosFuture (AF): You grew up in California and were able to attend UCLA. Was this always a dream of yours as a kid growing up in California?
Tyler Heineman (TH): Yeah, I would always go to UCLA baseball camps as a little kid and loved to go to the games. I wasn’t really getting recruited by them but I attended their high school camp and they offered me a spot on the team as a bullpen catcher/backup and to work from there. Since I’ve always wanted to go there, I jumped at the opportunity.
AF: Can you describe the feeling of being drafted by the Astros? What was that day like for you and your family?
TH: I honestly wouldn’t want to relive that day again. A lot of stress and anxiety that came with the whole draft process. I didn’t even know the Astros were interested in me, so it was a bit of a surprise. But once I was picked I was just relieved and excited.
AF: What is your favorite songs to listen to prior to a game?
TH: I would probably have to say heavy rock. Breaking Benjamin or Skillit or Three Days Grace.
AF: What is the most memorable moment of your professional baseball career?
TH: I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel with the major league team to the exhibition games in San Antonio. That was pretty special.
AF: As a catcher, how do you feel about the MLB changing the rule of a catcher blocking the plate?
TH: Honestly I don’t care much. I think it’s nice that the MLB is concerned about the well being of the catchers and their safety. It doesn’t really change the way I play too much. I always try and protect myself and put my self in a good position to get the out but also protect myself in the process.
AF: When did you start switch hitting? Was there a player you watched while growing up that made you want to switch hit? Do you feel you hit better from the left or right side?
TH: I started switch hitting in 10th grade. I didn’t really get the idea from any major leaguer. I was just messing around in the cage and I decided to give it a chance. I definitely feel more comfortable from the left side of the plate. That is to be expected because I do it more often.
AF: If there is anything you would like to improve on the field, what would it be? What do you feel is your biggest strength?
TH: Well I have been struggling offensively this year. I am not performing up to my capability and that’s frustrating. I have not had a consistent approach all year. I’ve been changing and changing and changing. And that’s my fault for not trusting my practice and my ability. So I feel like I slowed my development this year at least from an offensive standpoint. My defense is my biggest strength. I enjoy every aspect of the defensive game and I take a lot of pride in my defense. Especially gaining the trust of the pitchers to throw the ball in the dirt and trust that I will block it.
AF: What’s the most important skill a catcher must have to be successful?
TH: Definitely his brain. The ability to control a pitching staff and call a good game is vital. Look at Yadier Molina when he is in the line up and when he is not. It’s a big difference. After that, obviously how he works with pitchers.
AF: If you had to name a coach or person who has had a big impact on your minor league career who would it be?
TH: Rodney Linares. When I was struggling last year for a period he just kept reassuring me to keep pushing and it will turn around. Keith Bodie has taught me and continues to teach me the game and how to play it the right way. I’ve had a bunch of people that have helped me out.
AF: How has the adjustment between A+ Lancaster and AA Corpus Christi been?
TH: The adjustment is like any adjustment, players are a little bit better, more experienced, can throw off-speed for strikes. Locate better. Game speed is a little bit faster. But it’s great baseball. So I love it.
AF: Thanks Tyler and good luck the rest of the season.
TH: No problem. Anytime.
Photo via Jayne Hansen