I had been thinking about this for a few days now and it really started to make me wonder about the 2010 season. As everyone knows, Jason Heyward is the sh*t. There's really no doubt about it. After the Braves
drafted stole The Jay Hey Kid with the 14th pick in the 2007 draft, he's been a man on a mission since then. Here is just a look back on his 2008 and 2009 seasons:
2008 (Rome and Myrtle Beach):
127games .316AVG .381OBP .473SLG .854OPS 29doubles 6triples 11HRs 56RBI 51BB/78SO
2009 (Myrtle Beach, Mississippi and Gwinnett)
99games .323AVG .408OBP .555SLG .963OPS 23doubles 4triples 17HRs 63RBI 51BB/51K
Obviously, those are some incredible numbers. Add the fact that he was only 19 and 20 when he put these numbers up and you truly wonder if Jason is only human.
Whether it be in April on June, every Braves fan wants to see Heyward in the majors in 2010. The kid could easily win the Rookie of the Year and launch a hall of fame career next season. As we all rosterbate away, we all keep believing Jason is going to have great success in his first season in the Majors. While he could very easily meet all the lofty expectations, there's always cause for concern. What if he struggles? What if he can't stay healthy? I have all the confidence in the world in Jason Heyward and pray that he has 15 all-star seasons and leads us to 5 World Series titles, but you always have to examine the struggles that a 20-year old rookie could face.
As I asked above, what if Jason struggles against MLB pitching or can't stay healthy? Heyward has only played half a season above A-ball. He also only played 4 games in the AFL this fall. I'm pretty sure the pitchers in Major League Baseball are just a little better than the pitchers Jason faced in Mississippi and Myrtle Beach. You also have to worry about potential injuries. Throughout his minor league career, the only knock on The Jay Hey Kid is that he cannot stay healthy. He missed quite a few games in Myrtle Beach with an oblique injury and was removed from the AFL after a knee injury. Will he be able to withstand the rigors of a 162 game season? Here are some of the scenarios of what could happen if Jason doesn't perform or continues to be injured in 2010:
- The Braves are forced to use Melky Cabrera in RF.
- The Braves are forced to create a platoon in RF with Eric Hinske and Cabrera.
- The Braves are forced to trade the farm for an impact OF bat.
- The Braves are forced to call Jordan Schafer up, thus moving McLouth to LF and Diaz to RF.
- The Braves send Heyward back down to AAA, thus ruining his confidence and they ruin the #1 prospect in baseball's career. (not likely, but you never know what could happen.)
I don't know about you, but all of those scenarios -- with the exception of Jordan Schafer moving into CF -- look awful.
Here's the conclusion I've come to: The Braves MUST HAVE a solid back-up plan in place. Last season, we all saw how having a poor outfield offense can cripple a team (thanks, FUGA). Whether that back-up plan be a more known name like Johnny Damon or Jermaine Dye, or a lesser Free Agent such as Xavier Nady, Jonny Gomes or Randy Winn, the Braves need to take care of the situation soon. This team has all the parts to make a deep run in 2010. Do we really wanna risk losing all of it by not having a solid back-up plan if Jason Heyward struggles?