C-n-C Mailbag: Jason Heyward
I remember hearing that Jason Heyward had signed with the Braves but when I looked, I saw that he hasn't played a game yet in the minors. What is up with him? Where would you put him in your top prospect list? And what do you think of him and his future with the team?
Baseball America had reported that Heyward and the Braves had reached an agreement on a $1.7 million bonus a while ago but haven't announced it. The reason for this is that the commissioner's office is trying to make the draft more fair for low-market teams by putting a slot value system in for the first round of the draft. Technically teams are not required to abide by it but the way it has been explained to me is that all the signings over slot value will be announced very close to the August 15th deadline so agents cannot use the above-value signings as leverage for their player. So the Braves aren't really in danger of not signing the Georgia native but to please the commissioner, which is a very good idea with Bud, we will have to wait ten days until we see him on the field.
Let's just get this out of the way right now. Heyward, once he signs, will have the most upside of any player in the Braves organization, so on a list of just that he would be number one. However, he is three to four years at least away from the big leagues. I would probably put him right before Kala Ka'aihue based on his polish as a high school hitter and tools but I have to take into account his competition and sample size in pro ball. His power potential is very similar to Ka'aihue's, but he has more speed, better defense, much better base-running skills, better plate discipline, and hits from the left side. He might make it to that point by the pre-season list if he starts with Rome (not likely) or if he dominates for Danville in his time there. Chances are though that he'll have to work his way to the top of the list next season though.
Readers, who remember our draft coverage know that I absolutely loved the Braves pick of Heyward back in June. I thought it was easily the biggest steal in the draft and even before the draft believed he was the best high school hitter available. I thought he would go as early as four to the Pirates and assumed there was no way he would get past ten to the Giants, so I was shocked to see him still on the board at the fourteenth overall pick. There isn't really one thing not to like about him. He has a great frame for a hitter at 6'4" (some reports have him an inch taller). He is big enough to fill out for big-time power but not too big that his strike zone become unmanageable. His biggest asset is not only the 40-home run power potential from the left side, but his incredible plate discipline for a 17-year old of his size; in a little less than 100 plate appearances this past season, Heyward walked 43 times. Those are his most impressive tools but you go on down the list and see much more. He has good speed for a guy of his size and is an excellent baserunner, he has a good arm strength and very good accuracy, and should be able to play the corner outfield and first base spots down the road with good defense. The comparison you see over and over again is a left-handed version of Derek Lee, which seems more than reasonable to me. A big guy with good home run and gap power, with good plate discipline, and who can steal 15 bases a season. If he develops to his potential, Heyward could be one of the most prolific hitters in the game, and he is a hometown boy.
Send your mailbag question to
if you would like it answered in the Chop-n-Change mailbag.
John M. Writes,