Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) spits blood as he is tended to by trainers and Fredi Gonzalez (33) after getting hit in the face by a pitch from New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (not pictured). How will the Braves fill the void cause by this injury? Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Heyward Out For The Season–What Now For The Braves?

When Jason Heyward was hit in the jaw by that 90mph fastball yesterday the Braves lost their leadoff man, hottest, hitter and most charismatic star for the remainder of the season. The division lead is safe but the lineup is once again in need of shoring up. The question is how?

Internal Options

The Braves internal options are pretty straight forward but none of them very satisfying. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Leadoff man: Jordan Schafer seems to be the right choice here for a couple of reasons.

  • Leadoff is his natural lineup spot.  When drafted and throughout his minor league career he was projected to be a top of the order center fielder who gets on base and uses his speed.
  • Hitting leadoff his slash line is .307.409/.507 with five steals in seven attempts in 89 PA.
  • He provides solid outfield defense
  • Fredi Gonzalez is trying to keep him in the lineup because he’s been hitting well; at least until the calendar changed to August

The downside? His August slash is .150.261/.150 in 23 PA.

Other leadoff options include:

  • Andrelton Simmons who floundered there earlier but seems do well hitting towards the bottom of the order.
  • B.J. Upton who the GM thought for some reason was a leadoff man but has floundered everywhere he’s been in the lineup so far.

Right Field: When Jason was out earlier in the year and when he played center Justin Upton moved back to right field. Justin played there his whole career until moving to Atlanta but he’s not a gold glove right fielder and won’t make many of the catches Heyward would make. As a left fielder he’s above average. I expect Justin – if healthy – to be the man at least initially.

Jordan Schafer has played right but lacks the arm to do it regularly. The same is true of Reed Johnson whose achilles injury put him on the DL and even after he returns will certainly slow him down. Joey Terdoslavich has played both corners in the minors but he’s not an everyday quality outfielder.  Jose Constanza played there off and on but his arm isn’t up to the job every day. so JUP seems  or to be the choice but if we use him in right who plays left?

Left Field: This depends a lot on how Fredi Gonzalez wants to do things. If he give B.J. a chance to st.ep up – again – then he’ll slide Schafer to left.  If BJ falls n his face – again – he might well use Joey T there or start Evan Gattis and sub for defense later with Constanza or perhaps Todd Cunningham.

None of these is really a great choice. Heyward brought pop and defense to the lineup so there’s a chance the GM will move for a waiver wire guy but who?

Trade Options

The waiver wire doesn’t have any difference makers out there that will actually be traded but there may be some good players who are. We just saw the Cubs deal David DeJesus to the Nationals who immediately put him on waivers themselves. That’s odd but the Nationals have had an odd season. If the Nats would trade DeJesus to us he’d be a good fit. At 33 he isn’t a long term guy but he is a seasoned veteran and solid defender. The Nats aren’t likely to do us any favors however so who else?

According to Jon Heyman Marlon Byrd was placed on waivers 9 August. Since then I can find no reports where his name comes up so either he was claimed and pulled back or Heyman was wrong; neither would surprise me much. If Byrd did clear and was available he’d be the guy. He’s having a great year after struggling to come back from being hit in the jaw by a fastball – I know odd synchronicity here – and serving a 50 game suspension in 2011.  Byrd is slashing .286/.333/.523 with 21 homers, 24 doubles, 5 triples and 70 RBI for the Mets. We saw what he can do on Tuesday. The Mets seems oddly unwilling to trade  the 35 year old journeyman outfielder so it’s unlikely he moves.  The name that interested me when it came up in an aside on MLB Network’s Post Game last night was Nate Schierholtz.

Scheirholtz is have a very good year for the Cubs after getting little playing time with the Giants. His slash of .278/.330/.520 with 18 homers, 26 doubles, 3 triples and 58 RBI at or above his career numbers and he’s been very hot lately. He’s a right fielder by trade with a good arm and experience on post season teams. At 29 years old he has one arbitration year left and would be under team control through 2014 so they Braves could flip him in the post season or as part of a package for another need or just hold on tp provide insurance in the event Heyward has concussion, vision or other issues that slow his recovery. I like the idea of Schierholtz which likely means the GM won;t consider it; we are rarely on the same wavelength.

That’s A Wrap

The loss of Heyward is the second hammer blow the Braves have taken in the past few weeks. The pitching staff’s stepped up and filled in for the loss of Tim Hudson so far but I don’t see our outfield depth to be capable of that in a championship year. In the post season pitching and defense wins and games are generally close.  Losing Heyward diminishes our ability to win both at the the plate and in the field. Our best option looks to be slipping Schafer into the leadoff spot and trying to add Schierholz who seems the best fit as a Heyward stand in. . . unless the Giants want to lone us Hunter Pence.  The Braves will undoubtedly look around today and see what they can do.  Let’s other GM’s don’t get too greedy and our GM realizes that reinforcements are needed now.

Tags: Atlanta Braves FanSided

  • carpengui

    Internal OF Depth Chart:
    Upton / Upton / Schafer / Terdoslavich / RJohnson / Gattis
    Cunningham / Constanza

    External Options (from above):
    Schierholtz / Byrd / DeJesus / Pence

    1. DeJesus – the Nats shot themselves in the foot and are trying to save face; if we asked, they’d gladly move their problem to Atlanta…but he’s not worth $2.5m for the duration.
    2. Pence – Now that’s an inspired idea. He’s still owed about $3.2m, but he’s a lot more worth it.

    3. The Braves could opt to do nothing… not sure BJ’s plate problems will allow that. The 40-man is still bulging, but there *are* still guys who can be moved to the 60-day DL. (Elliot Johnson required no roster move – he takes the space created when Blake DeWitt was released).

    • carpengui

      Oh – and I’m glad you DIDN’T suggest Frenchy.

      • fireboss

        I considered an ironic note that the Giants had DFA’d him again but decided this was too serious to joke about

        • cheadrick

          So I shouldn’t prophetically joke and say DeJesus or Frency?

          • carpengui

            NO! But at least DeJesus wasn’t claimed by ATL (Tampa has bailed out the Nats).

        • Matthew Jones

          I will say that if the Braves wanted to use Frenchy exclusively against lefties and a late-inning replacement, that’d be fine. Otherwise, go after Schierholz or Byrd.

    • fireboss

      Nats have been shooting off toes since last August. Fun to watch. Agree DeJesus is down the list.

      Giants might trade pence for a piece with a tacit “We;ll sign you back next year and this could get you another ring” agreement. But really a long shot.
      Schierholtz is the best fit for us. I like having cover for next year just in case

      • carpengui

        Frank Wren (on phone): Hey, Brian, I know your season hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped, but I have an idea on how you could still stick it to the Dodgers.
        Brian Sabean: How’s that?
        Wren: Let us borrow Pence for a few weeks.
        Sabean: I’ll put him on a plane.

        • fireboss

          your lips to Sabean and Wren’s ears

  • Pingback: Heyward's Injury: How the Calendar/Schedule/Playoffs Break Down

  • Lee Trocinski

    I’m pretty sure Jason will be back for the playoffs. While he may be rusty, it’s not imperative to get another starting-quality outfielder.

    • fireboss

      I disagree. If he’s back for the playoffs he will not be game fit or game ready to hit nor will he be ready to dive for a ball like the one that saved Kimbrel in New York knowing a face plant on a jaw that’s held together by two metal plates could be damaged again. BJ hasn’t hit and there’s no reason to think he will, Gattis will struggle against the best pitchers and his defense is not playoff quality. Joey T isn’t a lot better and neither Constanza nor any of the minor league bats is good enough. You can’t replace him but you can and should get a lot closer than we are.

      • Lee Trocinski

        So you’re saying that even if Heyward is physically healthy enough to play, he still shouldn’t? I understand your points, but it’s not like he’s missing 4-6 months. If he can play in a couple Instructional League games and feel alright, he has to be in the lineup in October. It’s not nearly as bad as the Nationals holding out Strasburg last year, but if you have a healthy star, he needs to be playing.

        I don’t think Pence has even went through waivers yet, so he has to clear that before a trade could be discussed. I doubt the Giants just give him away, so at least a marginal prospect will be traded away. Plus, who says Pence/anyone else does well or stays healthy? I think the Braves already have enough quantity of pieces to find the right players for October, even if Heyward can’t play.

        • fireboss

          If Heyward is in game shape he should play. If he’s not he shouldn’t and I don’t see how he can be after 5 weeks of liquid diet, and sedentary living. he’ll lose weight muscle mass and his timing will be off. Instructional league pitchers don;t give him the kind of at bats he needs to rebuilfd that; AAA pitchers barely do that.

          Do I want the Heyward of 2011 carrying at injury that limits what he can do and hitting like it’s spring training playing . No. I’d rather have a healthy Nate Schierholtz.

          Do you want a semi healthy Heyward to play even if the risk of permanent injury is higher than normal and he’s hitting 220, slugging 380 and can’t steal bases because he slides head first most of the time and one face plant could cause more damage?
          You know pitchers are going to go in under his hands, that’s where they try to get him out. Another pitch that slips could be a disaster. that doesn;t even consider the mental challenge he will face when Chapman throws 100mh heat inside.
          I may be wrong he may come back and not miss a beat. If he does he’s the first.

          BTW Pence isn’t moving .. I was being facetious and twisting the tail of those who hate Pence because he isn’t pretty

          Indications out of Atlanta are that they won’t do anything anyway if I read the snippet of the AJC story correctly. I can’t afford to subscribe to their online stuff for a year to get 6 months worth of news. Not that it surprises me. Tonight we saw that as I suggested we should have traded for a pitcher at the deadline because Maholm is awful against good teams and Beachy’s arm is problematic at best. We also saw that without Heyward at the top the spark is gone at least on the road

  • fireboss

    #Braves’ Heyward will miss the rest of the regular season, per his agent, Victor
    Menocal. Availability for post-season to be determined.