It is official. Football season is over, the groundhog did not see his shadow, the snowy weather has been ushered out with warmer temperatures and spring training camps are opening.
All of this can mean only one thing: Baseball season is almost here.
With the beginning of baseball season comes the start of fantasy baseball drafts. Last year, I joined a fantasy baseball league called Strat-O-Matic Baseball (for the Richmond Strat-O-Matic Baseball League...find out more on www.rsbl.org).
To summarize strat baseball, it is a deep keeper league (where the 20 franchises keep 15 players each) that involves actually playing all 162 games for your team (with cards and dice, based off last year's stats).
Now that fantasy baseball season is starting, owners in many keeper leagues (be it strat or the more traditional online fantasy baseball) have to make some tough decisions. In our league, and I am sure many keeper leagues around the nation, the biggest question comes from who to draft of all the available candidates.
If you have a consistent fantasy keeper league, or you are like the strat league that I play in, where some managers have been playing the game since the mid-1960s (and the RSBL has been around since 1983), then your goal is to try to establish the best franchise for years to come.
So the question that is then posed becomes this: Who do you take with the first pick to build your franchise for years to come, Buster Posey or Jason Heyward?
Ponder the question, be it as a fantasy owner, a strat owner or just someone who loves the game of baseball. Which player would you take?
Buster Posey has almost always been the best player on the field his whole life. Posey attended high school in the state of Georgia. Posey was the state player of the year, for both Gatorade and Louisville Slugger, and earned the honor of being an All-American.
After graduating from high school, Posey went on to attend Florida State University. The credentials continued to rack up, from Freshman All-American all the way to the Golden Spikes Award.
After completing his highly successful collegiate campaign, Posey went on to be drafted with the fifth overall pick (in the first round) by the San Francisco Giants in the 2008 MLB draft.
Posey stands in at an impressive 6'1" and 205 lbs. He enters the 2011 season as a 23-year-old (turns 24 by Opening Day) catcher with an already impressive MLB résumé.
Posey completed his rookie season with the Giants by becoming only the fifth catcher in MLB history to win the World Series in his rookie season. To add the icing on the cake, soon after winning the World Series, Posey beat out Jason Heyward (his matched-up rival in this article) for the NL Rookie of the Year Award by a vote of 20 to nine. It is easy to see why Buster Posey is a franchise-type player.
Jason Heyward is a mammoth man, as you can see in the picture included on this page. Heyward stands at 6'5" and 245 lbs. By size alone, Heyward is an ideal candidate to play tight end or linebacker in the NFL. Instead, this 21-year-old has spent his time since high school as a baseball player.
Heyward was the 14th overall selection (in the first round) of the 2007 draft by the Atlanta Braves. Heyward, just like Posey, comes out of the talent-rich baseball state of Georgia.
These two guys actually battled it out for a title prior to last year's NLDS when they competed against each other in the 2005 Georgia AAAA State Championship. (Heyward's team beat Posey's in a best-of-three series, with the final game ending 16-14; with Posey standing on deck with a runner on and one out, the team hit into a double play to end the championship.)
Heyward was also an All-American in high school and entered last season as the talk of the town around MLB. He headed into last season as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Just like Posey, Heyward did not disappoint.
After being drafted in 2008 by the Giants, Posey had a short run through the minors that was highly successful.
Posey only played in 172 games as a minor leaguer in the Giants farm system. What Posey had accomplished, and the polish that he showed, was enough for the Giants to give him the promotion to the bigs.
Through 172 minor league games, Posey posted the following stats:
- 750 plate appearances
- .333 BA / .427 OBP / .542 SLUG / .969 OPS
- 25 HRs, 118 RBI, 98 BB and 102 K's.
In what was roughly equivalent to one total MLB season, Posey proved very quickly that he was just too good to be held down in the minors.
With Jason Heyward being drafted right out of high school, his trip through the minors was a little longer than Buster Posey's.
Though it was longer in comparison, Heyward still reached the majors by the age of 20 years old. Just like Posey, the Braves found that Heyward was just too good to stay down in the minors any longer.
Jason Heyward played in 238 minor league games. Here are his stats through those games:
- 1,003 plate appearances
- .318 BA / .391 OBP / .508 SLUG / .899 OPS
- 29 HRs and 129 RBI while posting 105 BB vs. 138 K
Heyward did all of this during his teen years, while most impressively striking out only once per (roughly) nine at-bats.
As mentioned previously, Buster Posey impressed during his rookie season by capturing both a World Series championship and the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
What may have been even more impressive than both of those accomplishments was how Posey was able to handle the star-studded pitching staff of the Giants.
Though the Giants staff is outstanding top to bottom, with the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner, the issue with the Giants' pitching is how young the group is as a whole, and Posey did an excellent job calming down many rough bumps for pitchers like Lincecum, Sanchez and Bumgarner.
Statistically speaking, Posey comprised a season that was well worth the NL ROY award. His stats for his rookie season were as follows:
Posey played in 108 games, gathering 443 plate appearances. During the plate appearances, his hitting stats were:
.305 BA / .357 OBP / .505 SLUG / .862 OPS
In addition to these percentages, Posey had 18 HRs, 23 doubles, 67 RBI, 30 BB and 59 K's.
The "J-Hey Kid" came on the scene making an enormous splash to start his MLB career. This splash came in the form of a towering blast against Carlos Zambrano in his first official MLB at-bat.
The hype had grown around Heyward so much in spring training that it almost seemed inevitable that he could not live up to all of that praise at such a young age. Personally, I did not even think myself that a 20-year-old kid could take all of the media pressure that Heyward was getting. Boy, was I wrong.
During his rookie season, Heyward was thrown into the fire on day one as the Atlanta Braves' everyday starting right fielder. Heyward followed his Opening Day buzz by carrying a solid season all the way up to the All-Star break, where he was named (voted by the fans) the starting RF for the NL team.
Unfortunately, Heyward was unable to participate in the game because of an injury he sustained to his thumb a couple of weeks before the break. It seemed like the injury to Heyward was about the only thing that could slow this kid down.
Despite being injured, Heyward pushed through the pain and managed to play in 142 games, gathering 623 plate appearances. During this time, Heyward put up the following statistics:
.277 BA / .393 OBP / .456 SLUG / .849 OPS
In addition to those stats, Heyward added 18 HRs, 72 RBI, 29 doubles, five triples and 11 SB...all while striking out 128 times with 91 free passes.
In the beginning, the question was phrased as to which player someone should select in a keeper fantasy league, a Strat-O-Matic baseball league or who you would want if you were starting a franchise today.
When you have two players the caliber of Posey and Heyward, I don't think that you can really go wrong going with either one of them. Both players got their respective teams to the playoffs (on teams that were not in the playoffs the previous year).
Last year's crop of rookies has been described by Tim Kurkjian as "the best group of rookies in MLB in over the past 25 years," so to go with either one of these guys, I do not think you can let the selection of Rookie of the Year sway your decision.
One thing that has to be considered when making your decision is the fact that Posey is a catcher. Finding a top-notch offensive catcher is extremely difficult. If you do find one, most players that are offensive catchers tend to lack the defensive skill sets. Not Posey. Posey showed that he can handle a staff, make all the throws and have excellent footwork necessary for throwing and blocking, and most of all, he showed that he can lead.
Though Posey does take a slight nose up on Heyward because of the position he plays, Heyward gains ground back because of his age. The difference in starting the season at 21 and 24 is considerable. Neither one is an aged veteran that is on the downside of his career, but at the same time, Posey was playing college baseball at the same age that Heyward will be when the season starts.
Additionally, Heyward is not a Manny Ramirez-type outfielder either. Heyward is more than capable of fielding his position, and he is slowly being considered one of the best right fielders in the game.
When you look at this matchup, there are so many little things that could favor either one of these guys to help you make a logical selection. In the end, when I decided to make a decision, the man in the picture above for me is Jason Heyward.
I believe that Jason Heyward is a once in a generation player. If he is able to command the strike zone as well as he did at 20 years old, then I would love to see him once he becomes more seasoned. I think one of the most impressive stats from Heyward's stat sheet is the .391 on-base percentage. That average placed Heyward as the fourth best OBP in the NL and the eighth best OBP in MLB—all at 20 years old.
Heyward has a body frame that places him in a category that could put him in the upper echelon of the elite players in the game. Standing 6'5" and weighing 245 lbs., Heyward still has room to grow in his skinny frame. With the increase in size and the experience facing top of the line MLB pitching, Heyward's power potential is enormous.
Add the power potential of Heyward to his speed and then calculate his incredible eye and arm strength, and you have a true five-tool player. Heyward's speed receives a great injustice if you just look at his stolen base statistics (11 last year). Bobby Cox is infamous for not using a running game as one of his offensive strategies. But watching Heyward cover the outfield like a deer and go from first to home on a hit in the gap, you see game-changing speed.
Yes, Buster Posey is incredible. Of course I would take him on my team in a heartbeat. But given the upside of Heyward and how he could redefine the five-tool player...in this debate on which player to take, I have to agree with MLB.com's 2010 prospect ratings and say, "Heyward is No. 1!"