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why-i-think-heyward-wont-hit-better-than-melky | January | 2010 Articles

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Why I Think Heyward Won't Hit Better Than Melky

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There's no actual news to report (well, other than Peter Moylan's $1.15 contract from last week), so I thought I'd point your way toward our old friend Peter Hjort's Braves depth chart over at Capital Avenue Club. It's an interesting roster that Frank's built us, with potential platoons in 1B and LF and Chipper's standard effective platoon at 3B.

Eric Hinske is basically a platoon player anyway: since he bats lefty even though he throws righty, for his career he's OPS'ed .804 against RHP and only .666 against LHP. Then again, that doesn't help us much, because while Glaus has a platoon split, it's not one that Hinske can really address: Glaus, a righty, has a career .957 OPS against lefties but still an .822 OPS against righties. So the only reason to use Hinske over Glaus is to protect the health of a guy who's only played 280 games the last 3 years. That will also keep him fresh to back up Chipper when he inevitably gets dinged up over the summer. I'm not a big Hinske fan, but he can be useful if he's utilized sparingly.

Matt Diaz will probably be the regular (or mostly regular) left fielder, but Melky Cabrera will likely be given a certain number of defensive innings anyway. If Heyward opens up the season on the farm -- as Tom and I hope -- then Melky could see a few more starts in right. I don't really expect Heyward to be significantly better in 2010, and certainly not in the first half of 2010, than Melky Cabrera.

Why do I think that Melky and Heyward will be about the same? Justin Upton. In 2007, at the age of 19, Justin Upton posted a .961 OPS (.319/.410/.551) in A+ and AA, and was promoted to the majors. Last year, at the age of 19, Jason Heyward posted a virtually identical .963 OPS (.323/.408/.555) in A+ and AA, and was given 3 games in AAA rather than a late promotion to the majors. In his first 151 games in the big leagues, over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, when he was 19 and 20, Justin Upton batted .242/.334/.435. Considering that Upton's minor league track record was very similar to Heyward's, I don't think this level production is completely unlikely. Remember, last year, in 154 games, Melky batted .274/.336/.416 -- almost the same as Upton's line. I'd rather see him getting at-bats in right field the first two months of the season than Heyward. In this league, penny-pinching is no crime.

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