As the Atlanta Braves have signed Craig Kimbrel to a pretty big contract, word is starting to spread that Andrelton Simmons will be the next player that the team locks up. All of this talk has brought up questions about the man that just signed a two-year extension this offseason.
Jason Heyward was expected to be a truly great player when he joined the big league club in 2010. That year, he showed that he had the potential to turn all of those beliefs into truth. However, he has been quite inconsistent with his play due to injuries over the past three seasons. Just how good can Heyward be though?
In his four seasons, he has hit 73 home runs and stolen 43 bases. His .259 BA is damaged by the two seasons where he spent time on the DL, and he would most likely be closer to the .275 mark had he stayed healthy. He is also one of the best gloves on the team behind Simmons.
In 2010 and 2012, which were two seasons that Heyward played more than 130 games, he had offensive WARs of 6.4 and 5.8 respectively. He was also worth 4.6 and 3.8 wins above the average player. However, in 2011 and 2013, when he spent lengthy bouts on the DL, those numbers dipped below or around just 2.0.
In the outfield, Heyward has constantly been one of the best in the game, ranking in the top five of total zone runs above average in 2012 when he won a Rawlings Gold Glove award.
So, would Heyward have been a better investment than Kimbrel? In four seasons, Kimbrel has a total WAR of 9.7, which is almost half of what Heyward’s has been over his four seasons (18.4). Yes, they play different positions, but sabermetrics shows us that Heyward would have been the better bet to give money to.
If Heyward can prove that he can stay healthy, it will be hard for the team to keep him for more than the two-year contract. While the Braves are stuck with a guy throwing one inning a game a few games a week, they could lose a player that may hit 25 home runs and steal 25 bases in a season, if not go 30-30. A healthy Heyward would have been a better signing, but he hasn’t proven he can stay in the lineup consistently for a number of years in a row.