Jason Heyward came to the big leagues in 2010 with a great deal of hype surrounding him. Many people were expecting greatness from a kid who had not even turned 21 years old at the start of his first major league season. When he had a historically great rookie campaign for his age, the hype just continued even though there were some concern about his injury history.
Then came an awful 2011 season when he struggled at the plate because of injuries and was unable to make adjustments as pitchers started to figure him out. He struggled badly enough that he was replaced for a time by career minor-leaguer Jose Constanza.
Heyward rebounded in a big way in 2012 as he not only stayed healthy for the full season, but displayed power, average and speed while playing strong defense in right field.
The question to ask now is whether this kid has it in him to become an MVP, or whether he will frustrate fans and management with unfulfilled potential. This article takes a look at what the future could hold for Heyward.
Jason Heyward has played three full seasons in the big leagues, which makes the fact that he is going to spend the bulk of 2013 at the age of 23 a bit of a surprise to some. It also makes his career .261/.352/.479 batting line with 59 homers even more impressive, especially when factoring in that ugly 2011 campaign.
He has the power to be an annual 30-40 home run guy—with a chance to occasionally hit 50 in a season. However, his game isn't just about power, as he hits for decent average and knows how to work a pitcher to get on base. In addition, he has proven to be a very clutch hitter who has the ability to come through in key situations.
Heyward also has other things going for him. He is an excellent defender in right field with a big arm, which won him a Gold Glove Award last year at the age of 22. We also can't forget about his speed, which allowed him to swipe 21 bases, turn singles into doubles and leg out six triples last season.
Heyward has already proven himself to be a pretty complete all-around player, and he has the personality to become the face of the franchise. Altogether, this just screams out future MVP.
As great as the last slide makes Heyward seem, he is not without flaws. The biggest is that he is injury prone, which causes him to miss games and go through long slumps as he deals with nagging injuries. He may have made it through 2012 without any major issues, but he has struggled with injuries in each of his first two seasons as well as the minors.
Heyward also struggles badly against left-handed pitching. Despite his strong overall season in 2012, he hit just .224/.280/.354 in 237 at-bats against lefties. Jason had problems hitting left-handers in his rookie season as well. It's hard to be one of the best in the game if you can't hit balls coming from one side of the mound.
Finally, Heyward has had some issues with his plate discipline in the last two seasons, which is a surprise after he posted an on-base percentage of .393 as a rookie. He only posted OBP's of .319 and .335 in 2011 and 2012, and his walks were way down from his inaugural season. To become an elite player, Heyward will need to find the right mix between being too patient and a little too aggressive at the plate.
I believe that Jason Heyward can and will become an MVP candidate. It may not come in 2013, but at some point in the next few seasons, it is likely to happen for him as he continues to put it all together.
Heyward is simply too talented to not take his game to the elite level. Considering all of the positives about his game, he doesn't need to suddenly post a .900 OPS against lefties to get to there. He just needs to find the proper balance and do a better job with his plate discipline.