Good afternoon to the best fans in baseball. Just a quick note, this is my first-ever post, and it might not be perfect. I am just trying to get a few points across, and I'm sure I will get better in time. I was just sitting in study hall and was on the site, and decided why study for my upcoming Biology test when I can talk about things that really matter?
We've come a long way from when Jason Heyward's batting average hovered around .230 and Shelby Miller was a major NL Cy Young Contender. All of a sudden Hayward is hitting .291 with 20 stolen bases and Miller is 5-11 (granted, his record is misleading).
Now, in August, many Heyward critics have left the building. He's established himself as a valuable part in the batting order, his glove is impressive, and he leads the team in stolen bases. However as we near September and the postseason, Jason Heyward could be edging closer to his last game in a Cardinal uniform. He will be one of the more sought-after free agents this coming winter, and at the young age of 26, a contract ranging from 7-10 years is certain.
Let's start with the good stuff. Heyward is leading the Cardinals with a WAR of 4.4 and also leads all Cardinals regulars with his .291 batting average and has a solid slash line of .291/.349/.442. Twice on the past road trip, he came within a homer of the cycle. He's run all over the field snagging line drives and sliding to catch bloopers. He has stolen 20 bases and been caught just twice.
Onto the nitpicks. Heyward does have a solid batting average, but his drop in power has continued into this season. At the beginning of the year, if you had shown me the August 31 stats of Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward and asked me to guess which was Heyward's, I would have been dead wrong. This rise in average, however, does not mean, no matter how young he is, that he is a career .266 hitter. His .330 BABIP is pretty high, and might be inflated. He's good at finding gaps, but this cannot last forever.
Heyward is also overrated on the base paths. When the Cardinals started to realize that maybe he was more of a speedster than a power hitter, a bunch of people gasped about how he had "re-invented" himself. Well, no, Heyward has already stolen twenty bases. Twice. Which brings me to my question: if he is fast (and hardly ever gets thrown out), then why does he not have 30 stolen bases this year? I'm not saying he's Billy Hamilton or anything, but how about trying a little bit harder to get some things started?
Another quick problem with Heyward that is not necessarily his fault is the terrible way that Mike Matheny has handled him in the batting order. Now, when Matt Carpenter started to fall into his well-documented slump, he had just been moved to second in the order (a decision that was pointless, by the way) and Kolten Wong was batting lead-off. Peralta also started to see his numbers slide, and who's batting fourth? Heyward, who is batting about twenty points higher than any of them! If Mike Matheny gave me the lineup card to write out, I would put Heyward first, then Piscotty, then Grichuk, Peralta, Molina, Carpenter, Wong, Reynolds/Moss. Lead-off is the best place for a player like Heyward, and if Matheny continues to misuse him so drastically, I don't see the point in keeping him around for ten years.
My next question is how much will the Cardinals actually need Jason Heyward next year? If he signs someplace else, we still have a solid outfield of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty. At first base, we can have a Moss/Adams platoon (Moss is actually a bit better against lefties), and everyone else can field their normal positions. Brandon Moss, no matter how much I hated him when we initially acquired him in that still-lopsided deal, undeniably has a hot bat right now, and his struggles in Cleveland may have been due to the fact that their ballpark does not suit left-handed power hitters. On top of that, he is just recovering from surgery, and another winter of rest is not going to hurt. My point is, if Piscotty and Grichuk can repeat their performances from this year, Holliday can stay healthy, and Moss recovers, why do we need to sign Heyward for around $150-200 million?
The Cardinals will also receive compensation for Heyward, which is often forgotten in free agency. As much as we cried when Albert Pujols left, isn't it sweet to have Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty?
I'm not going to say that either signing him long-term or letting him go are indisputable right or wrong answers. But hey, it would be nice to have that extra $150 million, and it definitely will help in committing to Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Randal Grichuk, and others in long-term deals.
Heyward is overrated. I'm just going to come out and say it. He hasn't produced as much power as we would have hoped, and he hasn't tested his speed in a way that I would like to see. But he is young, and either way his free agency ends, the St. Louis Cardinals will likely walk away winners.