Key Stats: Most 20 year old men spend their time chasing women and calling older friends to pickup alcohol for them. Jason Heyward is not your common 20 year old. He spent his time last season hitting .277 with an .849 OPS, 18 HR, 83 runs, 72 RBIs and 11 SB which was one of the greatest seasons by a 20 year old player in major league history.
Heyward is one of the most polarizing players in the top 100 rankings. Some players are touting him as a top-20 pick based believing he has 30+ HR power and 20+ SB speed. Others have him just inside the top 100 believing he’ll fall victim to the sophomore slump.
Skeptics Say: Plenty of players have suffered from the “sophomore slump “after productive rookie seasons. However, unless there is a specific reason why a player might struggle, it’s probably not prudent to assume the player won’t improve in his second year. Heyward has quickly bounced back from any mini-slumps he has endured to-date, so I see no reason why he’ll struggle in 2011.
Skeptics will also point out that while Heyward has the natural raw power, he doesn’t have the swing to hit 30 homers. Heyward has never gotten a lot of loft on his swing as evidenced by his 55.1% groundball rate. Alex Rodriquez had the highest GB ratio of any 30 HR hitter last year and his GB ratio was only 46.0%. However, it’s not unheard of for young hitters to develop more loft in their swing as they get older. Robinson Cano is a great example of this.
Peer Comparison: It’s hard to find an adequate comparison for a 21 year old that’s already had major league success, so looking at a player with similar skills but better all around numbers might be the best comparison. Last year Jason Heyward was a poor man’s Jayson Werth. How will he compare to him this year? Let’s take a look category by category.
Average – Werth’s average was better than Heyward’s last year (.296 compared to .277). However, Werth’s average is likely to decrease this year as it was driven by a .352 BABIP, high given his propensity to strike out (26.5% K rate) and his batted ball splits. Heyward’s average is likely to improve assuming that his strikeout rate improves this year as most young hitters’ rates do. ADVANTAGE HEYWARD
Home Runs – Werth was the better power source last year as he hit 27 HRs compared to Heyward’s 18. However, I expect the move out of Citizens Bank Park, one of the best hitter’s parks in the game, to Washington will knock down his HR count a little this year. As the young Heyward develops, I expect an increase in the number of HRs he hits. EVEN
RBIs – Werth will likely hit in the middle of the order while Heyward will probably hit second albeit in a better lineup. The lineup spot wins out here. ADVANTAGE WERTH.
Runs – Heyward had a better walk rate last year (14.6% vs. 12.6%) and you can expect this gap to widen as Heyward matures. As discussed earlier, I think Heyward will hit for a higher average this year and therefore will reach base more often. Combine a higher OBP with a better lineup, and Heyward is likely to score more runs this year. ADVANTAGE HEYWARD.
SB – The last three years Werth has stolen 20, 20 and 13 bases. In his first year Heyward stole 11 bases, but was caught 6 times (and most of those times he was thrown out by a mile). Some people believe Heyward can steal 20 – 30 SBs this year, but I’d be surprised if he reach 20 SBs and shocked if he reached 25 sb. In the end, it’s EVEN.
Heyward wins the category comparison 2-1. When you take into account Heyward’s upside, it’s pretty clear that he should be drafted ahead of Werth.
Lineup Outlook: The Braves lineup is likely to be improved this year with the addition of Dan Uggla and the return of Chipper Jones. That should boost the runs that Heyward, who is likely to bat second in the order, will score this year.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #12 Outfielder & #45 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #11 Outfielder; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #72 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #53 Overall; Couch Managers: #46 Overall; RotoChamp: #67 Overall;
Projection: He’s still a few years away from being a superstar, but he’ll still be very good this year.
104 R 24 HR 82 RBI 15 SB .300 AVG .910 OPS
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