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Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward in Arizona early to make ‘critical changes’ at the plate

Aug 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) hits during batting practice before a game against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) hits during batting practice before a game against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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There’s no denying it was a difficult year at the plate for the Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward. A handful of good games is all he could look back on. His defense can only carry him so far, so now the retooling of his swing comes in.

How many of you called the Chicago Cubs signing of Jason Heyward a bust after just one season? Don’t be shy, there’s more of you than are probably will admit. Heyward isn’t the type of player to simply say “Oh well, I got paid”. No. Soon as the celebrations were over, Heyward made the move to Arizona to get to work on his swing for next season.

Heyward is working with assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske to fix a swing that saw him post career-worst numbers with a .230 average with seven homers, 49 RBIs, a .306 on-base percentage and .631 OPS in 142 games. His defensive WAR was also a career-low 1.6. He still garnered his fourth Gold Glove, but that was the extent of the excitement for Heyward in Chicago.

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On the Spiegel and Goff Show on Friday, general manager Jed Hoyer talked about the work that Heyward has done so far.

"“The video I’ve seen so far and all the reports from Jason are really good,” Hoyer said. “I think you need to get to the offseason to make some critical changes. For people that don’t understand that, it’s so hard to tweak something in the batting cage before the game."

Death by fastball

If there was a pitch that Heyward struggled against, it was the fastball. He didn’t hit many pitches well, but the basic fastball proved to be his nemesis for much of the season. With that awkward hitch in his swing, it became apparent early that the fastball up was going to be a tough pitch for him. Most teams took notice of this, and it became the M.O. all year for opposing pitchers.

Most fans frustration came for the high amount of ground balls to second base. His propensity to roll over on them became somewhat “legendary”. Heyward could have very well made a living of slapping the ball to left field. But that wasn’t the case as his struggles with his swing continued all season. But now, last year’s big free agent signing has a chance to completely modify his swing. Chances of seeing the same swing you saw this year? Highly unlikely.

"“He was excited to get to the offseason and be able to make those changes,” Hoyer said. “I love the fact that he moved to Arizona. Right now, most guys aren’t aggressively hitting at this stage of the offseason. He’s really excited to do it."

With the departure of Dexter Fowler, the Cubs are going to need improvement from Heyward at the plate. With his defense, the team doesn’t need him to be a .300 hitter–nor did they expect that when they signed him. They do, however, expect him to hit in the .270 range and put the ball in play more often. And not just to second base.

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Just like Jon Lester, I believe you’ll see huge strides from  Heyward in his second year with the Cubs. It might not be to the degree of Lester competing for the Cy Young, but it won’t be a matter of calling for him to sit in the biggest games of the year like it was in the 2016 playoffs.

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