Your first instinct when hearing the Jason Heyward is now a Cardinal might be to discount him in fantasy circles. After all, his power has been waning already, and now he’s moving from a park with a 100 park factor for lefty home runs to one that has a 96 park factor (or 97 and 92 respectively if you use StatCorner’s numbers).
But it’s not that simple.
It is simple that his power has been on the downswing. Check out Karl de Vries’ convincing graphs which show that Heyward’s batted ball distance and home runs per fly ball rates have all been steadily decreasing. Turns out, it has something to do with having to go the other way more due to pitchers not throwing him the ball inside. It’s hard to find a lot of good news in there for his power output going forward, especially coupled with his park change.
Wait, it gets even worse. Heyward hit more balls the opposite way than he ever had before in 2014… and his production on balls on the outer half of the plate got worse. Below is a heat map that compares 2014 Heyward to 2013 Heyward using run values. Look at the blue on the outer half — we already knew that he was doing worse low and in because he wasn’t getting pitched there, but the outer half doesn’t look any good either.
So what’s the good news?
Well, there’s a lineup change for one. The Cards scored 3.82 runs per game last year and now have Heyward. The Braves scored 3.52 runs per game last year. When the Braves scored 4.32 runs per game in 2012, Heyward managed 175 runs plus RBI. Last year, he had 132. In a full healthy year, he’s likely to better those runs and RBI totals, even if he’s close to the top of the lineup again.
Even though power and speed may peak early, Heyward’s also young enough to believe that the power may rebound a bit and the speed may stick around. If you add up his power and speed totals from the last two years — neither of which was a standout year for him — he’s still managed 25 homers and 22 steals. Only 17 players with at least 25 homers stole more bases, so he’s still a five-category threat with reduced power output.
Let’s not push the narrative too hard. Heyward’s power output is obviously a grand question mark, and the projected numbers — currently 21 homers and a .178 ISO — would represent production he hasn’t seen since 2012. Possible, but it would take a change in approach or health to get there.
But let’s also not forget that he’s headed to a better lineup and is a decent five-category player, with added value in on-base percentage leagues. If someone has soured on him and is worrying (too much?) about his power, see if you can pick him up in dynasty leagues and use him for pad all your categories a little bit instead of any one category a lot.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.