Jason Heyward’s Bounce Back in the Leadoff Spot
Don’t look now, but Jason Heyward is back to having a quality season at the dish. He is not running like we saw last year and his power numbers are down, but his overall offensive performance is up and he is improving in the right areas.
For long term leagues, it’s a great sign that Heyward has started to hit coming out of the All-Star break. Even more specifically Heyward has been great since being moved to the leadoff spot on July 27. In 17 games started since his move to the leadoff spot, he is hitting .382/.455/.603 with three home runs, six doubles, 20 runs scored, and 12 RBI.
Whether his improved performance has to do with him leading off is undeterminable and nothing to fret on. One thing that is likely is that the commitment to having him lead off should lead to a few extra plate appearances over the course of the remainder of the year and some more runs scored. One worry is that the Braves are already 14 games ahead and the team may opt to sit more of its starters during what will be crunch time in roto leagues and playoff time in keeper leagues.
Going back to looking at Heyward long term, those who have held onto him and valued him highly are seeing dividends from their patience as they watch his value build back up. When he came up, people expected him to be sort of like what Bryce Harper has been in his first two years. He has not hit quite as well, and lot of his real life value is tied to his defense and base running – two factors that do not show up in a fantasy box score. I say base running doesn’t because his best base running skills are first to third, first to home, and so forth.
As mentioned, he is improving in the right areas. His walk rate is currently 10.9% and strikeout rate is a career low 16.4%, bringing his BB/K ratio to 0.67 which is close to his rookie year in which he posted a 0.71 mark. He was struggling with a low BABIP all year but his mark is back closer to a respectable .286 mark. If his yearly BABIP was his career mark of .304, his numbers would be drastically better.
It is unfortunate that his home run and stolen base numbers are not quite where we would want them to be, specifically after going 20-20 last season, but the talent is there for him to perform in those areas and he should be relied upon in dynasty leagues to do so in the future. In keeper leagues, Heyward was drafted rather highly due to his second breakout last season. Although he has a large 6”5 frame, power is not quite where he specializes. The 27 home runs he hit are likely on the high end of what we should expect from him on an annual basis, but 18-24 seems to be what we should be aiming for as he enters his age 24 season next year.