Time for Jason Heyward To Break Out The Boom Stick

With Matt Adams hitting the disabled list this afternoon, it’s about time right fielder hopeful of the future Jason Heyward breaks out that boom stick he has been hiding for the first two months of the season. Through 43 games and 159 at bats, Heyward’s slash line of (.233/.285/.365) is just ugly and must improve.

That makes for a sad and depressing OPS of .650, which actually ranks below Adams’ dismal start yet didn’t claim as many critics. It’s easy to like what Heyward brings to the table on a complete level. He has a cannon for an arm in the outfield, tracks everything down and runs the bases like a mad man. He has five stolen bases in five attempts and has scored 24 runs(third on the team). Heyward’s lack of power and consistency at the plate is the worrisome note.

He pounds a ton of groundballs into the ground and hasn’t generated a lot of power at the plate. Heyward has grounded into 8 double plays this season. In his last four seasons combined, he’s grounded into a total of 20. He is on pace for a similar season at the plate as he had last year in a leadoff role with the Braves. For a man looking for a juicy contract at the end of this season, Heyward simply isn’t hitting like it. Via fangraphs, Heyward’s WAR sits at 0.2 and his ISO(isolated power based on slugging percentage) is sitting at .132. His strikeout rate is 19.8 percent, elevated from his previous two season averages. So far in Heyward’s contract year campaign, everything is down. He is being given the opportunity to find his way, but with guys like Randal Grichuk, Peter Bourjos and soon Jon Jay offering manager Mike Matheny different skill sets, Heyward’s everyday playing time could be getting pushed.

Heyward is a notorious slow starter, so maybe he is about to explode. It could also be the pressure he feels in a big baseball town to contribute and do enough to earn a big contract. It’s hard to not think about Heyward’s production when his future in St. Louis is the determining factor for younger cost controlled talent like Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty getting their shots to fully showcase their skills. “Have to see about Heyward” is a phrase that may start to tire out.

The Cards have hit Heyward all over the lineup and tried different things. The lowered pressure of hitting 6th or 7th hasn’t helped as his May performance has been better than April but nothing to get too excited about.

I still don’t smack the trade that General Manager John Mozeliak made in November. A hole was created with Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, and Mo had to move fast. The Braves wanted Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez, and Mo chose to clutch the untapped gifts of Carlos over Shelby’s established yet yet to determined worth. If someone was going to prematurely grade the trade now, the Braves are winning, with Heyward struggling and Jordan Walden on the DL until the end of July. If this were a boxing fight, the Braves have definitely won the first couple of rounds on points. However, the fight is far from over and there are over 100 games to be played. Heyward’s value is yet to be determined because his career offensive production is all over the place.

Is he a 15-20 HR/80 RBI guy or more of an on base percentage low power threat? His first five seasons have given fans a bit of everything. So far in 2015, his hitting has been underwhelming and if the Cards are to offer him a 5-6 year deal worth 18-20 million per season, he has to hit a LOT better than he is right now.

The questions surrounding Heyward’s bat won’t leave anytime soon. They will surround him like a storm cloud until he starts to contribute at the plate. On May 27th of 2014, Heyward was struggling to hit and it didn’t pick up in June. 2015 needs to be a different story. If Jason Heyward is the right fielder of the future, he has to show he can produce at the plate as well as in the field and on the bases. It’s too early to demand a refund with the trade, but it’s a fair time to demand more from Jason Heyward. His career .260 batting average and .348 on base percentage suggest a spike in his performance soon, so there’s a reason to be optimistic.

With Matt Adams down for a significant amount of time according to John Mozeliak, there isn’t a better time for Jason Heyward to step into a hot streak and carry the back end of the Cards lineup when they most need it, especially against righthanded pitching.

The 2015 trek of Heyward still stands as the most interesting story of the season. What turn does it take the next month or two, with the emergence of Grichuk and the accumulative pressure of the season?

Just remember this. Heyward is 25 years old, has hit for power and average before, and stands to get better luck with balls put in play. Everything suggests he will turn this around at the plate and while more production is desired, he doesn’t have to be Babe Ruth up there. Heyward simply has to get more big hits and extra base hits and do it relatively soon.

Can he do it? We will soon find out.

Thanks for reading, @buffa82.

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