Expectations are continuing to rise for Jason Heyward entering into his fourth season in the majors.
They were taken in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman consider themselves best friends on and off the field. They are expected to do big things again for the Atlanta Braves in 2013.
Atlanta's two core players helped lead the team to their second playoff appearance since 2005. It was a short stint as they were defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the inaugural National League Wild-Card game. Heyward and Freeman have the experience to help take the Braves back to the playoffs this season.
After an abysmal sophomore campaign in 2011, Heyward felt the pressure of having to bounce back with a better 2012 season. At the beginning, the concerns grew as he batted .232 with six home runs and 23 RBI through the first two months of the season, which included a .200 average in May.
The concerns reached a boiling point after a Bryce Harper base hit to right field that was played casually by Heyward. The Nationals' outfielder took an extra 90 feet and slid safely into second base. The play was ruled a single and error. Not only were fans worried about their right-fielder's production at the plate, but they were also frustrated with his lack of effort on the field.
That play changed the whole season for Heyward as he heated up in the month of June. Heyward then hit an astounding .348 with six homers and 15 RBI in June. He made spectacular plays in the field including some incredible home run-saving catches in the second half of the season.
How many wins do you expect the Braves to finish with in 2013?
Heyward finished 2012 with a career-high 27 home runs, 82 RBI and 21 steals, and is looking to build on his success in 2013. He is a year older, mature and adjusted well to pitchers who tried to pitch him in last season. He drove the ball to all fields, which made him more of a power threat.
Heyward needs to improve on a .200 average with runners in scoring position in order to increase his RBI total. If he can do that, expect to see a .280, 30 homer and 100 RBI season as he continues to develop his game.
Official 2013 Projection: .283 BA, 31 HR, 102 RBI, 22 SB in 157 games.
Freeman showed signs of greatness at different points last season. The Braves' first baseman won multiple N.L. player of the week honors.
Although an eye and left index finger injury sidelined him for 15 games, Freeman had a solid 2012 campaign with a career high 23 homers and 94 RBI. He is considered one of the better defensive first baseman in the game and saves a lot of badly thrown balls that hit the dirt.
Freeman is the man who officially clinched the Braves their postseason birth with a walk-off two-run homer over the center field wall against the Marlins.
This season, Freeman has a chance to show everyone around the MLB that he is among one of the best first baseman. He doesn't get a lot of the spotlight other players at his position receive. Of course, Freeman is still young, but 2013 could be the year he receives the recognition he deserves.
Official 2013 Projection: .279 BA, 27 HR, 105 RBI in 155 games.