Jason Heyward: To Play or Not To Play?

Andrew SimsContributor IMarch 17, 2010

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 02:  Jason Heyward #71 of the Atlanta Braves hits against the New York Mets at Tradition Field on March 2, 2010 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

As a Braves fan watching spring baseball, one the of the biggest things on my mind is the excitement surrounding Jason Heyward and the 2010 season.

Heyward is a player who needs no background to clue you in to who he is and what he brings to the team. Anyone who follows anything about the Braves has heard something about this kid.

From the beginning of spring batting practice when he was busting in windshields outside the complex, to holding the third highest batting average so far this spring (.455), Jason's name and accomplishments have been on the tips of everyone's tongues.

So what's the problem?  Play the kid come April 5 and stick Diaz or Cabrera over in left.  End of story.

Or is it? 

I admittedly have had Heyward spring fever, but when I read a blog post by Mark Bradley, a sports columnist at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, I began to think a little about the situation.  

He says that financially it makes more sense not to start Jason on opening day.  He cites an article written about how, in 2008, this same situation arose with the Rays and Evan Longoria.  If you remember, Longoria was the No. 1 prospect in 2008 and carried a lot of the same hype as Heyward is now.

Here is a section from that article.

"Longoria famously waited two weeks for a call-up at the start of the 2008 season…Longoria would serve only 170 service days with the Rays that season. By Major League rule, a player is a free agent after six full seasons, which are constituted by 172 service days. By waiting two weeks, the Rays bought themselves another year of controlling Longoria."

It's a loophole, but at the same time, like the Rays did, it can be used to the Braves' advantage.  Wait three weeks, stick Diaz in right field, pray to god McLouth's batting average picks up, and then come April 20, against Philly at home, let's bring him out.

The argument can be made that, because of the hype surrounding Jason, ticket sales may be hurt by the Braves not playing him.  A lot of people are waiting to see this kid in action.  However, even like Bradley said, aside from the Rockies and opening day Cubs series, the other games are all away. 

It's also in the first month of the season when fans may still be getting back into the swing of baseball.  I, of course, have been ready for months, but then again I am a baseball freak.  

Point is, there is a chance that these may not be huge ticket selling games.  Would Jason's presence change that?  Is it worth losing a year off a player that could, undoubtedly at this point, change Braves baseball? Is it worth having to spend what will no doubt be a lot of money for his contract then? 

I am leaning more towards the side with Mark Bradley, and having Jason chill for a little while.

Here is my question for you fans out there…

Is Heyward worth two weeks in the beginning of the 2010 season or paying $5-$10 million in 2016?  Some would say let's get on with it and see what he can do.  Still others, and I think the smarter folks, would say what's two weeks?  It's worth having him another year.

Let me know what you think.