Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward set career highs in just about every statistical category there is a year ago. He hit 27 home runs and finished with 82 runs batted in. The 6’5″, 240-pounder scored 93 runs as well and even swiped 21 bags, all in 587 at-bats.
It wasn’t exactly a campaign for the ages, but for his third season in the big leagues, it wasn’t too shabby at all. More importantly, Heyward was able to shake the injury bug and finally enjoyed an off-season free of lingering ailments.
All signs are pointing to another solid season for the 23-year-old and, should he remain healthy throughout, this could be the year he blossoms into a full-blown fantasy stud. Heyward possesses the power to hit 30 HR a year with ease, yet also has the speed to steal bases and score runs in bunches.
OK, maybe he won’t be stealing bases in bunches. But not many ball players built like Heyward are capable of swiping 20-30 bags a year the way he is. And with the Upton twins, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, now on board, there’s going to be plenty of base stealing going on in Atlanta.
Additionally, the Braves are planning to slot Heyward in the two spot of the batting order. As a result, we may see a more patient Heyward like the one that drew 91 walks in only 520 at-bats during his rookie season. While it may come at the expense of a few RBI’s, jumping up to No. 2 in the batting order will likely produce more stolen bases and runs in addition to walks.
With Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and the Upton brothers all lurking behind the extremely dangerous Heyward in the batting order, the youngster should be able to remain patient at the plate and pick his spots of when to be aggressive and when to lay off.
Understanding that a lot of things will have to go right, sustained health and confidence serving as two key factors, it would probably be a good idea to snatch up Heyward fairly early in your fantasy baseball draft this spring. He’s 23 with loads of talent and is coming off his finest season as a pro. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see the guy finish with both 100 runs scored and driven in this year.
It may sound like I’m expecting a bit much, but Heyward, in this revamped Braves lineup, is gushing with too much potential to pass up this year.