Along with real-life baseball activities, the weeks leading up to Spring Training also bring on a UCB classic — the roundtables! Questions are asked, answers are given, and we like to think we solve all the potential issues for the 2015 Cardinals well before they happen. Something like that, anyway.
So after discussing the probabilities for Jaime Garcia and the capabilities of Mike Matheny, I felt it was time to focus in on the new guy (well, one of them) and talk Jason Heyward.
(Side note: I had a couple other questions in mind, but I discovered the presence of none other than Mr. Heyward in this game image that’s been hanging on my wall for a couple years now. Looks like the Braves happened to be in town that night, and Heyward happened to be at the plate. I couldn’t not ask a Heyward question after that!)
Heyward was one of the first players to arrive in Jupiter, which seems to have made a great first impression. He’s said all the right things, and endeared himself to the fan base, too. But, coming to St. Louis carries with it the burden of expectation. Just being the nice guy isn’t going to be good enough. We know he has potential to be a superstar. We know he’s a top defender in all of baseball. But, we also know he’s not quite lived up to the hype so far.
The 2014 season was okay, but not spectacular (.271/.351/.384 with 11 HRs, or a 5.1 WAR, according to FanGraphs). The 2015 Steamer Projections have him in the same range in his first year with the Birds (.269/.352/.439 with 19 HRs, 4.9 WAR). It’s never easy coming into St. Louis, especially as the guy everyone is counting on to make this year different. …No pressure, Jason.
Keeping that in mind, here’s my two-part question.
1). On a scale of 1-10, give your ranking of the value in Heyward’s offense, defense, and “intangibles,” based on what we know of him so far.
2) Now that you’ve done that, think about the 2015 season — Heyward is expected to play a major role in reinvigorating the Cardinals’ lineup. What would you consider a successful enough season to feel he was worth it (both the trade and the hype)?
I was a huge fan of the Heyward trade. When it happened, I had just completed an article where I looked at the WAR of all outfielders. Obviously J Hey Two Two’s wins above replacement got my attention. He’s a great guy with a solid head on his foundations and qualifies as a PR dreamboat. He’s the younger version of Lance Berkman. Front and center. So, having said that, what stands in front of him. He will fortify an outfield broken by departure(Carlos Beltran), tragedy(Oscar Taveras) and sudden drop in production(Allen Craig). All eyes are on Heyward. So getting to the questions.
1. I give him a solid 8 due to his excellent defense, base running ability and overall baseball IQ. Sure his power was down in 2014, but he has a history of producing seasons with 20+HR and 75 RBI. He just needs the right setting and lineup. And he needs out of the lead off spot. Good thing the Cards have a pretty steady Carpenter there. Heyward gives you age, defensive wizardry and a potential for good things on offense.
2. A season where he hits .280, slugs 18 HR, drives in 80, and gets on base at a .350 clip with 20 steals along with the gold glove caliber defense for his first year gets my stamp of approval. If he does more, that’s great of course. Steamers projections aren’t bad on Fangraphs even though I’d like a higher batting average. I’m not asking him to blow me away. Give me more homers, more RBI and maintain the ability to get on base. His WAR for next season is projected to be around 5. While that’s due to his defense, that’s still a better number than Cards RF in 2014 provided. I’m excited for his potential and I know the hazards. He doesn’t hit lefties and he has up and down offensive seasons. I am going to ride the optimistic train with Heyward and say he proves he belongs here in 2015.
Jason Heyward has a value of 8 to the Cardinals on a 1-to-10 scale. They need his bat, arm, speed. They need an everyday player with a potential high upside. He provides that.
Based on his performance with the Braves, a successful 2015 season for Heyward would be to stay healthy, play in 150 games and produce these numbers: 20 home runs, 80 RBI, 15 stolen bases, .275 batting mark and .355 on-base percentage.
Go Crazy, Big Boy
I’d put him at 7.5, with room to move up from there.
Imagine being a lifelong Cardinals fan, since the time you were in diapers. You grew up knowing every stat, every player’s batting stance, had all the posters on your bedroom walls…etc. You have the dream-come-true of playing for that team. Life is perfect. Then, after a couple of years, they don’t want you. They stop returning your calls, won’t engage when you’ve asked to discuss your contract situation…etc. I’m hoping and believing that there was a mental aspect to his performance, that he will be free from here in St. Louis. Add to that that he’s guaranteed nothing beyond the 2015 season, and I think Heyward has all the motivation he needs–I think it just comes down to executing. I expect the fans and Heyward to fall in love with each other this summer, and (hopefully) a sensible extension happens. I think that extension is more what the trade was about than what he could do for the club in 2015.
I give Heyward a 7 based off what we’ve seen; a good season and flashes of potential. If he can match his 2012 numbers, it moves up to 8.5 or higher.
I have him projected to hit .269/.340/.444 with 19 HR, 78 R, and 70 RBI. I’d be happy with this, even if the average is that low (I’d be happier if it was in the .280s).
Rankings are always tough. I’ll go with the early line and say an 8 when you factor in the intangibles that I think he brings to the group. He’s not weighed down with last year’s offensive issues. He’s not an old veteran looking to recapture one more great year. This is a guy that the Cards want to be a core player for years to come. He’s a strong symbol that the excellence we expect is expected by the front office. It’s a lot to live up to, but right now, his value is quite high.
What kind of season would be considered successful? It’s tough to say. I mean, if he hit .300 but becomes the new Matt Holliday (I’m talking the internet mythos of Holliday, a double-play-generating, fail-in-the-clutch machine) we’d probably not feel like it’d been that great of a year. In general, though, if he approaches 20 HR and hits .280 or above, I think everyone would be satisfied.
I don’t even need power for this to be a great move. If he only gives me 10-15 homers but has his usual .350 OBP and that great defense, it rates as an awesome move in my mind. I think the 27 homer season created false expectations. Atlanta wanted that every year, and that weighed on him. Here in his fresh start, we should put no such expectations on him and let him just be who is, the aforementioned good OBP guy with a dash of speed and great defense. Any power should be considered a bonus.
Cheap Seats Please
1.) In regards to Heyward’s overall value to the club, I would say a 9 because there is one intangible factor that has been underrated, but I come back to that. On the field, he upgrades everything possible. It was going to take time for Tavares and/or Grichuk to develop either way, and right field was one of the only clear places that the team could upgrade its everyday offering, but couldn’t due to fact it was on reserve for the future. Heyward is a quick fix and upgrade right now, and still is within the age range to be projectable as well.
For as much as he has been lauded defensively, I don’t think it is quite clear how much better he makes the team there. The Cardinals have been a good to above average defensive team over the past few years despite having a fairly restricted outfield in terms of capability. Allen Craig, Lance Berkman, Oscar Taveras, all offense first options by far and they were placed there in order to keep their bats in the order. No more of that with Heyward, who was good for a ridiculous 30 runs saved in a much larger range in Turner Field than he’ll be asked to man in Busch. When there are late inning defensive alignments deployed of Jay, Bourjos and Heyward, that is a lock down press of a group that can change the course of some games. Also, he will give the Cardinals a plus arm in the outfield as well, which they have lacked for sometime now. That will also change the way that teams (especially the fleet footed Pirates) can attack the team.
Offensively, if he just slightly climbs up power wise, I am fine with him staying around where he is now honestly on the other metrics. I’ll talk exact number with question #2. Ideally he would plug in behind Carpenter and in front of Holliday and be able to move around the bases and put more runs in play for Holliday, Adams, Molina and Peralta. While the team needs more power, being able to generate runs station-to-station is really this team’s bread and butter. Having him and Carpenter reaching base at about a combined clip of about .370 would do wonders.
2) To justify the move, the numbers are secondary. It’s all about retaining him considering they gave up 9 years worth of sub-25 year old starting pitcher to obtain him. The production is secondary to that at this point. But for a satisfactory (and useful) audition season output, I believe that a .270/.355/.430 range slash line would be fantastic, along with counting columns of 15-17 home runs, 25 doubles and 22 stolen bases would be perfect.
RBI are hard to call because I am not completely sold on the fact that he couldn’t be utilized in the clean up over fifth spot in the lineup as well, which would obviously see his power approach take precedent again and him be in the position to drive in more runs. If he moves down in the lineup, it would not surprise me to see him connect for 22-25 home runs. After all, he is only 25 years old, is a powerfully built human being and will be surrounded by the type of hitters in Holliday, Carpenter and Molina that could really blend his skill set and approach in a perfect manner at this point in his career/development.
And back to that extra point in intangible value: he is finally an everyday, African-American presence on the Cardinal roster, which has already excited and endeared him to a large part of the local culture’s fan base that had been starving for such an identifiable player for a long-time. It brings a new element to the ballpark and team image, which is on par in terms of importance with his as a team leader and spokesman. Intangibles come in all sorts of packages.
The View From Here
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Maybe not a very long one, but still out on a limb, none-the-less.
I think that Heyward’s value to this team, and any team for the record, is somewhere around a 9.5. I live in Braves country. I have followed Heyward for many years, and seen him play both in person and on TV quite a few times. I was even sitting in the foul territory of right field for a 2013 game in Atlanta that was against the Cardinals, and Heyward impressed me. A lot.
I am a huge fan of defense. Offense may slip and slide, have ups and downs, but defense never quits. It’s because of his defense that he had a 5.1 WAR last year. His offense was also a positive, but that 5.1 WAR would have been second highest on the Cardinals, just behind Peralta’s 5.4 which was mainly because of his power. I will put out my first prediction of the year in that I think Heyward does lead the team in WAR in 2015.
Honestly, if Heyward can lead the majors in DRS and second to Alex Gordon in UZR like he did last year, Heyward could hit .250 and I’ll call it a good year. .275 would be a great year. Yes, he’s here to revitalize the lineup, but he’s also here because he sure can track down a fly ball with the best of them. Give me 10 homers, 20 steals and an on base percentage over .330, and I’ll shout his praises from the rooftops.
Red Bird Rants
I would give him an 8.
I am hopeful that a change of scenery will be nice. The Cardinals offense was very bad last season. The power wasn’t there at all. A successful season for me would be 20 home runs and 80 RBI.
I rank Heyward around an 8. I think he’s a special talent that is just now reaching his potential.
I agree with Doug here, I’m not worried about power. I want a .275 batting average and a .350+ on base percentage. Give me a considerable amount of doubles, let’s say 31 or more (that would be a career high). I want to see him driving in runs to the tune of 80 or more. I think that is a very successful season. I’d like to see him stealing some bases, but that may not be in his control a lot. If he is hitting second and Matt Carpenter is on in front of him, that will keep him from running constantly.
I don’t need him to be the next superstar, I just need him to be consistent enough to bring stability to the position.
I’ve been excited about Heyward wearing the Birds on the Bat as I have been for anyone in a good while. While it’s still a little strange to be excited about a right fielder brought in because of a terrible tragedy, I can’t help myself. He’s a special player, and by all accounts, a pretty great guy, too. The value of those intangibles are impossible to really quantify, but they can’t be overlooked.
Perhaps the best thing about a multi-talented player like Heyward is that his skill set makes everyone around him better. Jon Jay, for example, won’t have to cover quite so much ground in center field. Runners will have to think twice about trying to sneak an extra base. Matt Carpenter — no matter where he’s hitting in the lineup — won’t be the only one capable of both getting on base and smacking clutch doubles into the gap. Move him down in the order, and you eliminate holes due to his versatility. And, as many have mentioned, he has a little home run power in his back pocket, too.
Adjusting to any new situation can take a little time, but I get the feeling he’s a pretty quick study. I won’t veer far from the pack on this one — I’d say his value is right around the 8 out of 10 mark.
As for what makes his 2015 good enough? No one would be upset with an All-Star quality year. However, the Cardinals don’t need flash, they need function. They need an outfield unit that fills in the gaps. They need the top of the order, the heart of the order, and even the bottom of the order to complement each other. And they need a little buzz — a little bit of fresh energy to make this team feel new, not like a recycled version of last year.
If he could hit .275 with 20 home runs, that’d be great. I’m just as happy, though, with RBI doubles off his bat, and him eliminating RBI doubles with his glove! And of course, I’d love for him to think the season — and the city — are good enough to stick around a while longer. (…ya hear, Mo?)
Didn’t get to answer? Share your thoughts on Heyward below!