Jason Heyward: The Next Great Brave
The Atlanta Braves organization has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, and they have had a myriad of great players. Hank Aaron leads a group of great players that include Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Dale Murphy, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones. However, Chipper Jones’ farewell tour through MLB will conclude at the end of this season, and someone will need to take the reigns as the next great Braves player.
Enter, Jason Heyward.
The amount of hype that surrounded the 20-year-old Heyward’s 2010 debut was intense. He was the consensus #1 prospect in all of baseball, and everyone in Atlanta had high hopes for his debut. He could not have gotten off to a better start.
Heyward was able to finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting with some impressive numbers: .277/18/72, but his 2011 campaign did not go as smoothly. He battled injuries and elongated slumps at the plate. He struggled his way to a .227/14/42 season, and there was already some discussion that Heyward could be a “bust.” However, his sophomore slump seems to be completely in his rear view.
In only 125 games this season, Heyward is currently at .279/24/69, and he is the centerpiece of a Braves offense that is attempting to chase down the mighty Nationals in the NL East. Furthermore, he is one stolen base away from being the first Braves player to have a 20/20 season since Andruw Jones in 2000.
It will take a lot for someone to step into the shoes of Chipper Jones, but here are three reasons why I think that J-Hey is the perfect person to do so:
1. Middle-of-the-Lineup Power
This season, Heyward is showing everyone why scouts were going crazy for him while he was in the minors. His power stroke has emerged and he could be on his was to his first 30+ HR season. Hitting third in a lineup that includes Jones, Freeman and McCann is saying something about Heyward’s performance.
2. Organizational Structure
The Braves organization is known for doing their best to keep their young talent. Chipper will retire having played all 19 of his MLB seasons with the Braves. If Heyward continues on this tear, he should expect ownership to do all they can to keep him.
3. Still Young
When everyone was saying that Heyward could be a bust because of last season, I had to remind myself of how young he was. He just turned 23 this month, and he still has several years before he should be hitting his prime. I think it’s safe to say that the NL should just get used to this kid doing work.