If you took Jason Heyward in your draft this year you almost certainly spent a pretty penny on him. After a 27 homer and 21 steal campaign and the fact that Justin Upton was acquired to hit directly behind him in the lineup, Heyward was an extremely attractive target on draft day and if you left the draft with him as your top outfielder you probably felt pretty happy about it.
Obviously, the season has not started out quite as you or Heyward had planned. He struggled out of the gate and then had his appendix removed and missed almost a month of action. The fact of the matter is that you are not going to have the end of season results you expected when you drafted Heyward. Mark it down as a loss and move forward. The next step is to decide what you want to do with him. You have waited around for him for a pretty long time, which means you expect him to improve. So, do you put him on the market and risk trading him low or do you ride it out and hope he gets back to a 20-20 type pace for the rest of the year?
My suggestion is to hold onto him. At this point, you have gone through the roughest patch you are likely going to go through with Heyward and he is starting to get on base a decent amount. While he has not hit for the power we would like to see since returning from the DL, he does have a .367 OBP in his past 21 games after returning from his surgery. That comes with a .260 batting average, which is about what we should expect for Heyward going forward. As mentioned, the power has not been there to the degree we would like to see – he is slugging just .351 over that same period which is pretty putrid.
I have confidence in that power coming back, and you should have that same level of confidence as well. His HR/FB rate is just 7.3%, which is even lower than the 13.9% mark he posted in his injury-riddled 2011 campaign. He is also hitting the ball in the air more than he ever has, as his ground ball rate is a career low 40.2%. The combination of keeping the ball off the ground and having a low HR/FB rate to date makes me believe that he is going to start running into a burst of home runs sooner rather than later.
The next thing to look at are the stolen bases. We know he is going to score runs batting second in the Braves lineup and we know he probably won’t drive many in either in that same spot, but we should see more steals than we have seen so far. He has always been a great base runner but he has never necessarily been a great base stealer. Even last year when he stole 21 bags he got caught eight times. With Justin Upton batting behind him, it seems as though Fredi Gonzalez is less willing to have him run into an out than he was in season’s past. I still expect Heyward to steal about eight or nine more bases over the course of the year – ZiPS and Steamer both agree – but hoping for 15 or so more thefts may be asking for a bit too much.
What we should expect going forward with Heyward is about a .260-.270 batting average, a ton of runs, few RBI, and a good deal of home runs with some steals sprinkled on top. That is not top-3 round worthy but the draft is long behind us now. Hold onto him and if you do not have him, try and grab him now as it looks like he is starting to turn things back around.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.