Most would agree by now that the Atlanta Braves are the class of the National League East. They do have a huge lead in the division after all. The only question might be if they are the best team in the entire National League if not all of MLB. All of that was set aside on Wednesday afterJason Heyward was struck in the face by an errant pitch from New York Mets starter Jon Niese. The ball just nicked the edge of Heyward’s batting helmet before fracturing his jaw. He will be out somewhere between four to six weeks.
The injury itself is very big news for the Braves. It isn’t just a huge test because of who Heyward is for this team but most of all because of how he has played. It could be argued that the tandem of he and Justin Upton at the top of the batting order ignited the long winning streak that put the Eastern division away for the year. Now without him the Braves will have to scramble once again to find a workable outfield until he returns.
More than just how the Braves will make up for him however is how long they will have to do that for. If the injury stretches on further than they hope it could cross over into and past one or more playoff series. Heyward is not replaceable the way he is playing right now. There is no combination of players that can provide the spark he has given this team. They are not without options though.
The Upton brothers should stick around in center field and left field. The third outfielder will likely switch between three players. Evan Gattis is sure to get some time there just to try and get his bat going. Joey Terdoslovich is a plus fielder out there but still a little inexperienced at the plate. Perhaps the best possibility would be the Braves placing Jordan Schafer out there and at the top of the order.
He isn’t the type of hitter that Heyward is but without a doubt Schafer can provide a top of the line-up spark that the Braves will need in Heyward’s absence. There will be no solid single answer. I’m sure they will mix and match the outfielders they have and probably will continue to win. The big question here is how long Heyward is going to be out. The rest of the season with a 15+ game lead is certainly something the Braves can handle. They do not want to step into a short playoff series without one of their best players however. We will know more on Thursday so stay tuned to Rant Sports for the latest on how the Braves will do without Heyward.