Jason A. Heyward (The A is actually for Alias – no joke) turned 24 years old today, and we would like to take a moment to wish Jason a happy birthday, and spend a moment or two talking about one of the most beloved outfielders to ever play in Atlanta.
There’s mixed feelings about Jason with analysts and writers – those of us who get paid (haha) to write about baseball. We look at his numbers and are often baffled by his inconsistency. For a player drafted so high, we wonder why he hasn’t quite performed up to what was expected of him, and the question often comes up as to whether Jason was brought along too quickly. Among the great majority of fans though, there’s not much of a mix of emotions – most fans simply love Jason Heyward whether he is hot or cold, up or down, slumping or riding a streak.
The Atlanta Braves organization apparently love the gold glover as well. According to the Wiki on Jason, they offered him a signed deal worth $1.7 million – $170,000 more than MLB’s slot recommendation of $1.53 million, and the same as the 2006 14th-slot amount that the Toronto Blue Jays gave Travis Snider on August 12, 2007. We also know the Braves avoided arbitration with Jason for this year by agreeing with him on a one-year, $3.65 million deal. Whether or not the Braves extend that next season remains to be seen, but you can be sure fans hope the birthday boy is back in a Braves’ uniform celebrating his 25th birthday, and many more to come.
There’s little question among us writers and analysts about Heyward’s defensive prowess. Last year, Jason was 1st in outfield assists with 11, and the right fielder went on to win a 2012 Gold Glove. It wasn’t just assists either. Jason helped turn 4 double-plays (1st) from right field, and had 331 putouts (1st). Jason has clearly proven he’s a good defensive outfielder, but a few nagging questions remain about his offensive consistency.
For me, the questions are not so much of the nagging variety, as just the question of why Heyward hasn’t performed better. As a 14th pick in the 1st round of the 2007 draft, many people expected his numbers to be considerably better than a career line of just .257/.350/.437/.787. I would suggest to you though, that those numbers aren’t that bad over a four year span. I may agree that perhaps Jason was brought up a touch early, but I think after just four years in the majors, the jury may still be out on that. Jason does seem to battle slumps each year, and he battled one for most of the 1st half this season. Jason is is patient though, learns quickly, and seems to find ways to get back on track like he is now. There are legitimate questions about his consistency, and even though many of the SABR guys will disagree with me, I see a player who will eventually find a groove and be less inconsistent as he gets older and more seasoned.
I could probably go on for awhile talking about the good and bad points of Jason’s numbers, but my main goal was to give some kudos to Mr. Heyward on his birthday. I’ll finish those kudos by talking about how Jason is clearly turning his 1st half slump around. In the first half, Jason hit on a line of .227/.324/.371/.695. So far, in the 2nd half Jason has increased that line to .281/.406/.474./.879, a significant increase. Jason has always been considered a bit of a power hitter, and he has the build, but has fewer homeruns than might be expected this season. I think he still has the ability to hit for power, but instead has made adjustments to help his team and is hitting for production instead. In the leadoff spot, Heyward has been very productive.
Even though I’m one of those writer/analysts I mentioned earlier, I didn’t wish to spend much time analyzing Heyward. Rather I wanted to just show my appreciation to him for being an integral part of the Atlanta Braves, express my hope along with many other fans that he remains a Brave for a long time to come, and congratulate him on his 24th birthday. Jason, I hope you get all the birthday cake you want, and that your teammates won’t raz you too much or give you 24 licks with a paddle. If they try to, tell them to reserve their energy for solid wacks against the Marlins tonight.