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MLB Atlanta Braves

Rant Sports MLB Top 50 Players of 2014: No. 36 Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Heyward burst onto the scene in his first season with the Atlanta Braves in 2010, hitting a home run in his first ever MLB at-bat. Ever since then, he has struggled to stay on the field because of injuries. When healthy, Heyward is one of the more talented and exciting players in baseball.

In his rookie season, he hit for a .277/.393/.456 slash line with 18 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Heyward displayed amazing plate discipline and vision for a rookie, walking in 14.6 percent of his plate appearances.

In 2011, Heyward appeared in only 128 games for the Braves. He struggled offensively for the first time in his career, hitting for a .227/.319/.389 slash line with a 96 wRC+. He still showed above-average plate discipline, walking in 11.2 percent of his plate appearances.

2012 was his first season that he played nearly every game for the Braves, missing just four. While it was the first season he played in almost every game, it was also the first season in which he began to strike out more and walk less. His walk-percentage dropped to 8.9 and he began to strike out in 23.3 percent of his plate appearances. With his lessened discipline came more power; Heyward hit over 20 home runs in a season for the first time in 2012.

2013 was supposed to be the year Heyward finally had a huge season, but it didn’t turn out that way for the Braves right fielder. The Braves assembled what was supposed to be the best outfield in baseball, but only left fielder Justin Upton lived up to his expectations. Centerfielder B.J. Upton struggled so badly that he was eventually used as the fourth outfielder.

Even though his offense hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet in his young career, Heyward provides a lot of other things to make him still very valuable. He is a great defensive right fielder and is also very above average when running the bases. When considering all the things that Heyward does well and also projecting forward, it is very easy to understand why he is one of the top 50 players in baseball.