Exit Interview: Jason Heyward

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Jason Heyward

Season stats: 154 games, 610 PA, 79 R, 33 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 23 SB, 3 CS, 56 BB, 90 K, .293/.359/.439, 116 OPS+, 6.5 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 17, Goat 11

Overall grade: A

Positives: Fulfilled almost all expectations that were set for him after the big offseason trade….was one of the best baserunners on the team, not only leading the club in steals but also often going first to third in very aggressive fashion….hit .318/.331/.441 with eight of his home runs in the second half of the season….playing center field didn’t affect his offense, as he hit .318 in his nine games out there….hit .293 with two outs in an inning….won his third Fielding Bible Award….hit .324 with a .400 OBP against the Cubs.

Negatives: Started off the season slow, hitting just .217 in April….struggled in the second spot in the order, hitting .208 in 74 plate appearances….had his lowest batting average (.261) when nobody was out in an inning….hit just .245 with two outs and runners in scoring position….also hit just .244 in late and close situations, though he did have four of his home runs in that criteria….did not sign an extension with the club during the season.

Overview: When the Cardinals acquired Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, everyone was overwhelmed and immediately started daydreaming about the impact Heyward would have.  Save for the power, because a lot of folks thought we’d see him go for 25-30 homers, most all of those dreams came true.  After that slow start, Heyward was one of the most consistent bats the Cardinals have, steadily bringing his average up into the .300 neighborhood while still providing doubles power.  I’m not sure how many folks expected 20 steals out of him, but his baserunning was a joy to behold.  He once went from first to third on a ground ball to the shortstop, if my memory holds.

And his fielding, oh my.  I don’t remember the last time we had a guy that would be a legitimate threat to throw people out on the basepaths, especially at home.  Rick Ankiel, maybe?  I can’t find how many people he gunned out at the plate but we all remember the biggest one, nailing Anthony Rizzo in Chicago with the game on the line.  Yes, it took out Yadier Molina, but that was more on Rizzo than the throw.  If all we got to see was Heyward unleashing laser throw after laser throw, the coming contract would almost be worth it.

Heyward came to the Cardinals under tragic circumstances, with the death of Oscar Taveras still hanging over the club.  He brought a breath of fresh air to this club, and while he didn’t always flash personality, you could tell it was there.  He participated in the dugout rituals, including Adam Wainwright‘s silly dances, and so often had a smile on his face.  He was comfortable here and it showed.  How comfortable, that remains to be seen.

Outlook: There’s no doubt Heyward is going to be a very rich young man in a month or so.  There are going to be a lot of deep pockets lining up to talk with him.  However, I think that Heyward is going to want that comfort level along with the money.  It’s not going to be necessarily the top bid that gets him to sign on the dotted line.  I don’t think places like New York or Boston would be where he’d want to be.  If Chicago gets into the mix, that might have a draw, but all in all, I think the perfect all-around situation for Heyward is St. Louis and I think he knows that as well.  It’s going to be pricey, but I think we’ll all be buying Heyward jerseys for Christmas.


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