When Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward made his much-heralded major league debut on Apr. 5, 201o, he blasted one over the right field fence for a three-run home run off then-Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano to help propel his club to a blowout Opening Day win.
Throughout the rest of the season, Heyward continued to turn heads, playing in 142 games while finishing with a batting average of .277 to go with 18 homers and 72 RBIs. In the end, he settled for a second-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
The following season, Heyward’s numbers dipped to 128 games, .227 BA, 14 HRs and 42 RBIs respectively as he struggled through a thumb injury that landed him on the disabled list in the middle of the season, but he rebounded in 2012 to have an even better year than his rookie campaign, playing in 158 games while hitting .269 with 27 homers and 82 RBIs.
This year, Heyward has again had to deal with adversity, including another stint on the DL due to an emergency appendectomy that he underwent during the latter part of April. He has been so bad, in fact, that his average didn’t hit .200 until June 9 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he tallied two hits, something he has done twice more in the three games since to bring his mark to .215.
The question is, is it really time for Braves fans to be celebrating? Just because Heyward is finally hitting over .200 again?
I don’t think so.
I like Heyward, don’t get me wrong. He’s a good guy and he has all kinds of talent, especially in the field as evidenced by the Gold Glove Award he won last season, but he has proven to be inconsistent at best. His offensive bursts are fun to watch, but his struggles are really, really painful to suffer through.
Almost Dan Uggla-level painful.
So until Heyward keeps it up for an extended period of time, as in several seasons in a row, I won’t allow myself to get too excited. After all, longtime Braves center fielder Andruw Jones was known for being a streaky hitter as well, despite all the praise that was heaped on him early in his career. And we all know what happened to him.
I hope the 23-year-old is finally turning the corner once and for all. I really do.
But I’ll believe it when I see it.