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Jason Heyward: Can the Atlanta Braves Star Still Be Rookie of the Year?

ATLANTA - JULY 15:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves acknowledges the crowd after catching a deep fly ball and running into the wall in the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field on July 15, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Erskine ThompsonContributor IIJuly 27, 2010

Jason Heyward has been under intense scrutiny since the moment he set foot on a major league field. This intensified one at-bat later, when he hit his first major league home run.

He got off to a good start, but as pitchers began to learn that he would chase a low breaking pitch, he cooled off a bit. He made the appropriate adjustments, however, and was National League Rookie of the Month for both April and May.

Then there was the month of June, which took a lot away from Heyward's mystique. He injured his thumb on May 22nd, and played hurt until finally going on the disabled list on June 27th. One has to wonder if playing hurt has also injured his chances at Rookie of the Year.

June also featured the call-ups of Buster Posey, and some guy named Stephen Strasburg, who have both taken the National League by storm.

Strasburg's feats are well-documented (5-2, 2.32 ERA, 1.067 WHIP), while Posey has slid under the radar until recently, despite putting up phenomenal rookie stats (.368 AVG, eight HR, 33 RBI, .975 OPS). Posey's catcher arm is also one of the best in the league, throwing out nine of 21 potential base-stealers.

Heyward, meanwhile, is hitting .276 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs, along with an .875 OPS. The RBIs can be chalked up to hitting behind guys like Martin Prado and Brian McCann most of the year, and the other stats don't add up to Posey's. However, if you take out his time spent playing hurt, everything looks completely different.

If you look at Heyward's numbers for the year, without counting the month of June (which he spent playing with that injured thumb), Heyward is suddenly hitting at a .320 clip with a .995 OPS.

Allow me to repeat that: If Jason Heyward hadn't played hurt the month of June, his other stats give him a .320 AVG, and a .995 OPS.

Trying to play through an injury has cost him 54 points in batting average, and 120 points in OPS. Some of the OPS drop is because his home run swing hasn't really come back since his return, either. The Braves will happily take a 17-for-39 hitter, though, even if they're all singles.

With the 2010 rookie class beginning to show all its merits, however, one has to wonder if Heyward may have sacrificed that trophy in trying to play through an injury that led to DL time anyway. As always, time shall be the judge. Well, time, and a couple hundred sports writers.

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