Baseball BeatMarch 29, 2010
Up (Hey)Ward and On (Hey)Ward
By Rich Lederer

The Atlanta Braves announced on Friday that Jason Heyward, the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, will be the team's right fielder on Opening Day. Bobby Cox, in his last season as the club's manager, told the 20-year old in a three-minute meeting in the clubhouse, "I'm delighted to tell you you're on the team, Jason, simply because you make us a better team."

Cox told the media, "He's as good a player as I've seen all spring—our team, any other team."

What should we expect from the superstar-in-the-making in his rookie season in the majors? To get a better handle on that question, I turned to some of the most well-known projection systems as shown below:


On average, the projection systems believe Heyward will hit .278/.345/.443. For perspective, that line is virtually identical to the following seven players over the past three years:

  • Garrett Atkins (.278/.339/.440)
  • Ronnie Belliard (.286/.342/.445)
  • Jorge Cantu (.280/.335/.453)
  • Ryan Garko (.278/.350/.437)
  • Kelly Johnson (.269/.349/.438)
  • Aaron Rowand (.282/.346/.451)
  • Ryan Spilborghs (.279/.354/.443)

    While Heyward's projected stats may be impressive for a young man who was playing high school baseball in Georgia three years ago, they look rather pedestrian from the standpoint of comparable players. However, if he were to match Bill James' projections or BP's 70th percentile (.290/.362/.497), then you would have something a bit more special as comps such as Andre Ethier, Nick Markakis, Andrew McCutchen, Victor Martinez, and Troy Tulowitzki come into play.

    In the real world, Heyward hit a combined .323/.408/.555 at three minor-league levels (A+/AA/AAA) last year. He hit for average and power while drawing 51 walks and striking out only 51 times. His plate discipline is unusual for someone his age. Furthermore, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefthanded hitter is 17-for-49 (.347/.467/.490) with four doubles and one home run in 18 games and 58 plate appearances this spring. He has walked and struck out nine times each. Heyward has stolen four bases in five attempts, which is in line with his MiLB rate (26 SB and 5 CS).

    Heyward was scratched from Sunday's game against the Nationals with left shin splints. He is expected to sit out the next few days but should be good to go when the Braves open the season at home on Monday, April 5 vs. the Chicago Cubs. The game is scheduled to be televised on ESPN.

  • Comments


    That is my line. The OBP is legit and how does he not hit 20HR with 35 two baggers.

    I'm going to say this now for posterity: Heyward will stink this year, with a sub-.300 OBP and less than 20 HRs...

    If Heyward is good enough to stick around for 400 plate appearances this year, he will join 30 other players who also did so in their age-20 season over the past 50 years. Using OPS alone, the projection systems would rank Heyward as follows: Chone 13th, ZIPS 8th, PECOTA 6th, Bill James 5th (Behind ARod, Pinson, TConigliaro, Griffey Jr. and JUpton. For the record, the median mark is .707. Players below that include IRod and Yount.

    Oliver says 281/341/451 for 2010, which is almost exactly in line with the average of the five forecasts you quoted.

    The difference between Heyward and Atkins, Belliard, Cantu et al is that he will only be 20 years old in this coming season. If this is his true talent level at this moment in time, and he follows a typical aging curve over the next few years, Oliver expects him to be at 310/372/542 by 2014.


    I understand that Heyward is only 20 years old and didn't in any way suggest that the players listed above are anything other than comps for his 2010 average projection. His career should trump all of these players by a wide margin.

    BTW, I noticed that your projections have been greatly reduced from the .299/.363/.502 line in your THT article dated March 4, 2010. What happened during the past four weeks to change your view so drastically?

    The 299/363/502 resleased first, calculated in the original version of Oliver, was what he would have been expected to do his first couple years in the majors had he taken a normal amount of time to get to MLB from where he was (AA/A).

    Had a bug, the fix was up 7 days later.

    The quick explanation of the bug is when THT asked me to do multi year forecasts, I built them on top of my 'rookie forecast' before I realized I was double counting the aging curve. I went back and redid the MLE calculations to explicitly consider the age, and thus the position on the aging curve, on both sides of the matched pairs. So now I can do a current value and also future values.