Jason Heyward: Jim Callis' #3 Prospect of the Past Decade

In his most recent weekly mailbag over at Baseball America, Jim Callis discussed the top prospects of the past decade. Jason Heyward came in 3rd. Jim Callis, who is easily one of the most respected prospect gurus around, had this to say about Jay Hey:

Let's stack Heyward up against the No. 1 prospects from the past decade: Rick Ankiel (2000), Josh Hamilton (2001), Josh Beckett (2002), Mark Teixeira (2003), Joe Mauer (2004 and 2005), Delmon Young (2006), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007), Jay Bruce (2008) and Matt Wieters (2009). While Heyward would definitely rank No. 1 in fanfare received as a prospect, let's ignore all the hype swirling around him and focus solely on talent.

Heyward hit .323/.408/.555 as a 20-year-old in high Class A and Double-A (and a three-game cameo in Triple-A) last season. The only position players to top his performance were Matt Wieters (1.053 OPS) and Mark Teixeira (1.005 OPS), both as 22-year-olds in high Class A and Double-A. Jay Bruce had a .962 OPS but didn't control the strike zone close to as well as Heyward did.

Looking at the list of hitters, only Mark Teixeira and Joe Mauer are the unquestionably better hitters than Jason Heyward currently is. Jay Bruce still cannot control the strikezone on a regular basis to become an All Star-like talent and Josh Hamilton, unfortunately, got into the wrong things and is now paying the price after abusing his body for so many years. Delmon Young never quite figured out Major League pitching and still struggles to make consistent contact despite being such a highly-regarded prospect. Matt Wieters, who Callis chose as the top prospect of the past decade, hit well in his rookie season, but is still learning to be the leader of a young pitching staff.

Callis goes on to list Heyward 3rd, behind only Weiters and Red Sox ace Josh Beckett and finished just ahead of Mark Teixeira. Here's his reasoning:

Among the hitters, I'd take Heyward second. I'd put Wieters No. 1 because of the positional value he has as a catcher, and I'd put Heyward ahead of Teixeira for having a comparable performance while two years younger.

Callis, whether it be correct or not,always seems to give a huge advantage to catchers in his prospect ratings simply because of the positional value they bring.  While I agree with him that offensively-talented catchers are very rare nowadays, I feel that he might be over-valuing them just a little bit too much. And it's not like Heyward is a slouch in Right Field either; all of the scouting reports we've seen and heard about have Jay Hey as a plus-defender in the outfield who takes great routes to balls and has a cannon for an arm. In my opinion, I'd have Weiters listed as "1a." and Heyward listed as "1b.", with Beckett, Teixeira and Mauer rounding out the top 5.

Here's what Callis had to say about comparing Heyward to the pitchers in the list:

It's more difficult to compare Heyward to the pitchers. Matsuzaka arrived in the United States with the reputation for having six pitches that graded as plus at times (not even counting the mystical gyroball), as well as a track record of sterling success in the Japanese majors and international play. Beckett was spectacular in 2001, going 14-1, 1.54 with 203 strikeouts in 140 minor league innings before an impressive September callup.

First of all, Dice-K was never a prospect. He was 26 or 27 when he made his Major League debut and had been pitching professionally for years before that. It's not fair to compare him to a bunch of 21-year old kids with only minor league experience. As for Beckett, those numbers are very, very impressive. The only reason I have him listed 3rd (or 2nd, if you want to be technical about it) is because a pitcher can only affect the outcome of a ballgame once or twice a week. While Weiters and Heyward are bashing on pitchers 6 or 7 days a week, Beckett can only pitch once or twice for 15 innings or so. I'd take the incredibly talented every day player before I'd take the incredibly talented once-every-5-days player.

All-in-all, I think the article confirmed what many of us had been thinking for quite some time: Jason Heyward is an incredible talent who could become the next superstar in baseball. He's blessed with ridiculous talent and his potential seems limitless. Let's all just sit back and watch as this phenom grows.

Agree? Disagree? It's been an incredibly slow day for Braves news and hopefully this will spark some discussion. Also, consider this your pre-game thread, so chat away about tonight's game if you're in to that sort of thing. First pitch is at 10:05EST. The Jay Hey Kid will be in the lineup.

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