Jason Heyward showed signs of brilliance in 2010. He looked like a budding superstar and a lock to start immediately putting up huge numbers in the years to come. His line of .277/.393/.456 was one of the most impressive by a 20 year old player in history.
But since then, all offensive progression mysteriously stopped. He has now officially been mediocre for longer than he was so dazzling. After 142 games and 623 plate appearances of brilliance in 2010, he has now followed that up with 178 games and 653 plate appearances of mediocrity, mixed in with downright ineptitude. His defense and patience have remained, but his bat has disappeared.
His line in the last 178 games - .229/.322/.396 and trending downwards.
Check out his wOBA graph from the past 2 seasons (click on images for clearer views)
The start of 2012 looks eerily similar to the start of 2011, doesn't it? His wOBA since the beginning of 2011 is .318, which among right fielders is tied with David Dejesus and behind the likes of Brennan Boesch and Seth Smith. Not the names Heyward should be toiling away behind.
This has all come with the unwelcome sight of more strikeouts. Here is Heyward's K rate when compared to the league average.
In an effort to see what has changed, I watched several highlights from Heyward in 2010 and then compared them to highlights from 2012. I am by no means a baseball scout, but I did notice a few things. (click to embiggen)
Notice how much straighter Heyward stood in 2010? The most telling difference for me though, is how Jason has his hands tucked back and ready to start his swing immediately, whereas in 2012, he's holding his hands farther out and seemingly always pulls his hands backwards to load them before he even starts movement forward.
The most telling difference came when I froze the video at the point of impact. (click to embiggen)
Again you notice he is more upright in 2010. It's a telling sight that on the 2012 side on a pitch middle of the plate in, Heyward has to contort and bend his entire body forward just to reach it. Sign that maybe he's standing too far away? Either way, he looks much uglier mid-swing now than he did 2 years ago.
So that leads to my question, how should the team handle him? Keep playing him in right field indefinitely because of his stellar defense and be happy with the OPS floating over .700? Pass it off as him being young and wait until his mid 20's to worry about his production? Or send him to AAA for a month to completely remake his swing?
The only thing I know for sure, is his current swing is not working for him. At all. It has taken what was once a 900+ OPS dangerous hitter and turned him into a .230 hitter with a 25% strikeout rate.
<I personally think if he keeps this up through June that he should be sent down to AAA to fix his swing. NOT because I'm giving up on him (obviously), or because "he sucks", but because he has so much potential and and should be doing so much better than he is. He's not making any offensive progress at the major league level, so a few weeks without pressure and a with a lot of 1-on-1 time to shorten his swing could be better for him and team in the long run. I don't know if a player can properly retool a swing on the fly at the major league level, and considering he's only 22 and only played 3 games in AAA before being called up, a little time there to clear his head and start over might be just the ticket.
Would you trade away a month of .700 OPS Heyward in hopes of getting back the beast we saw in 2010 ready for the stretch run?
How should the team handle Heyward?
.229/.322/.396 is fine for his age, keep starting him in right and let him work it out here (103 votes)
Let him shorten his swing in AAA. It will be better for long-term success (146 votes)
249 total votes