Jason Heyward: Why The Jay-Hey Kid Is The Next Willie Mays

Evan BruschiniCorrespondent INovember 26, 2009

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Outfielder Jason Heyward #77 of the Atlanta Braves poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day on February 19, 2009 at Champions Stadium at Walt Disney World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Whether you've heard of him or not, Jason Heyward is good. Really good.

I suppose those of you who are still uninformed need an explanation.

Heyward, age 21, was born in McDonough, Georgia, also the hometown of outfielder Matt Murton. As the crow flies, The Geranium City, as McDonough is known, is just 27 miles away from Atlanta, home of the Braves.

After being an All-American at Henry County High School, he was selected 14th overall by Atlanta in 2007, and signed a deal worth $1.7 million—$170,000 more than MLB's slot recommendation of $1.53 million, and the same as the 2006 14th-slot amount that the Toronto Blue Jays gave Travis Snider in 2007.

But he's not just one of those bonus-babies. The Braves know what they were getting here.

Sort of. Local pitchers were so afraid of him that he didn't get many good pitches, creating a small sample size for scouts.

He has great plate discipline. Think Albert Pujols or Jason Giambi. He's got that even temperament and a great work ethic that make naturally great players into franchise players.

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It's not surprising that he was able to garner an impressive award case in his minor league career. In his first year, he was a midseason and post-season all-star for the South Atlantic League, where he won Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. He was also named to the Minor League All-Star Team.

This past year, he played in the Carolina League All-Star Game and the Futures Game in St. Louis. Then he capped it all off by becoming the 2009 Minor League Player of the Year.

So when can we expect Heyward to reach the major league level?

I would look for him to be on the fast track to the majors sometime this season. Regardless, you can expect him to be a top candidate for Rookie of the Year.


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