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Player Profile: Jason Alias Heyward

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Jason Heyward is the ice cold mystery beer at the bottom of the cooler.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

At 25 years old Jason Heyward is now entering his 5th MLB season. He’s had a 20 homer year, and two 20 stolen base seasons. His strikeouts have gone from 23% in 2012 (his best year) down to 15.1%. His walks have consistently been above 10%. Also when you look at his health, he’s had issues, but he’s averaged 136 games over the past 5 years, which is a number I’ll happily take on all my teams. So why isn’t he ranked higher than the #58 overall player on ESPN, or 81# player on Yahoo! ?

His biggest problem is that while he will likely turn in another top 100 season in 2015, we don’t know quite how he’ll do it. He’s ranged from 2 to 21 stolen bases in a season and between 11 and 27 home runs. So very similar to the problem teams have faced with drafting David Wright over the years, paying a high price for unknown production can be a tough pill to swallow.

Another issue for Heyward drafters is that it seems that his power seems to have stopped developing after his first 3 years made him look like a few 30 home run seasons were part of his natural progression. His average home run and fly ball distances have actually gone down in what is normally a hitter’s power prime.

Distance

Rank

2014

267.27

238

2013

287.24

95

2012

290.25

67

So just incase you haven’t been following what I just said, his plate discipline appears to be improving, but he isn’t hitting the ball as far. His line drive, flyball, and ground ball percentages were very close to his career averages last year, but his HR/FB% was a pathetic 6.5%, half of his career low prior to last season.

Season

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

SwStr%

2010

24.20%

58.80%

39.40%

64.00%

87.10%

79.10%

43.90%

8.00%

2011

28.80%

66.40%

44.70%

63.40%

85.30%

77.10%

42.20%

9.90%

2012

32.70%

67.00%

46.90%

65.10%

82.50%

75.40%

41.40%

11.20%

2013

28.30%

68.40%

44.60%

71.90%

84.90%

80.00%

40.70%

8.60%

2014

28.10%

63.90%

43.80%

70.20%

88.90%

82.20%

44.00%

7.60%

Total

28.50%

64.50%

43.80%

66.80%

85.80%

78.70%

42.60%

9.00%

Looking at his plate discipline numbers, I would assume last year would have been his best season, fantasy wise, of his career, as he had numerous career bests. So unfortunately this looks like its going to be one of my shorter articles, since I can’t figure Heyward out. He’s making a ton of contact, and hitting the ball to all fields.

His Lefty/Righty splits have ranged from acceptable to horrific, but that isn’t something I worry about since he should be getting over 400 at bats against righties, whom he’s hit .281 against over his career, and hit 301 against them last year. This has also been something he’s always dealt with, so I don’t see why it would ruin his power now. So perhaps teams are attacking him differently than they have in the past. First, I’ll show you what every pitch of his career looked like prior to last season.

and this is what he saw in 2014.

So last season 46.06% of all pitches seen were over the outer third or outside of the strike zone away, and in his career prior he was seeing 44.79. Now I’m going to make even less sense out of this data, and blow more minds, Jason Heyward is actually hammering the pitches he is seeing the most... Take a look at his slugging percentages by zone, over his whole career and last season.

last season’s slugging

What the hell Jason?!?!?! How did you slug .384 over a whole season but pulverized exactly what pitchers were attacking you with most often?

I’m honestly more perplexed now than when I started writing this article. But the initial statement I made still seems to hold true. Heyward simply won’t be predictable, and you shouldn’t expect anything from him except good overall numbers but in a completely random way. His new lineup is better, his new home park is worse, and his division is likely easier on him, adding more unknown to Heyward’s stock. I have him as a $16 player this year, but I would only want him as a high end OF 3, and not anything more. So next season, be cautious when drafting Heyward, because while he’s as cool as a beer from the bottom of an ice tub, you have no idea what you’re coming up with, and hopefully you like it.