The area of Jason Heyward’s game that needed the most work has always been his ground ball and fly ball rates. I mentioned before the season and a few games in the importance of Heyward getting the ball in the air more and away from the 50% ground ball rate he eclipsed in his first two years.
Many people are going to be watching his batted ball profile throughout the season to see if he can take the next step in reaching his colossal potential. In 25 games and 3 plate appearances short of 100, Jason is still heading in the right direction.
His line drive percentage is the highest of his career. In 2010 he ended up with 17.8 and in 2011 it was all the way down to 13.1. His ground ball rate (and probably the most important of the bunch for Heyward) is at a career low compared to 55.1% and 53.9%. His fly ball percentage has gone up every year since entering the league going from 27.2%, 33.0%, and 40.6% so far this year.
It is also good to see that his infield fly ball percentage is back down to a realistic number proving that 2011 was either a fluke or because of J-Hey’s ongoing shoulder issues. Last year the rate was 21.8% which was the 7th highest mark out of all players with at least 150 plate appearances (405 players).
What is a bit low is his HR/FB rate of 7.7%. Out of seventy qualified outfielders so far this year that is good for the 47th lowest mark (Bourn and Prado are 70th and 48th). This should start to climb up with more games however since his ISO isn’t too far off his career mark of .170. I would expect him to finish with a number higher than that however.
The main things to look at when going over Jason Heyward’s batted ball rates are the first three, and right now they are much better than they ever have been. He has cooled off a bit since his hitting streak ended but he is having a solid season so far with a .271/.354/.424 slash. The OBP should go up some more as well as he starts to get a better feel for the strike zone and get used to Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher not yelling at him for taking walks like Larry Parrish did.*
There is no reason not to expect Jason to have another excellent 2010 type season. The only difference will be the stolen bases. He has 9 already this year while getting caught twice, compared to a total of 11 in 2010 while getting caught six times.
*I have no proof that Larry Parrish did this so for now, consider it a joke