Chicago Cubs: Is Jason Heyward ready to be an offensive threat again?
Is 27-year-old outfielder Jason Heyward on his way back to being an offensive force, as well as an elite defender, for the Chicago Cubs?
Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward clubbed game-winning home run in the 11th inning to beat the Brewers this past Saturday. One day prior, he robbed Ryan Braun of a two-run homer, flashing his Gold Glove like only he can.
Seeing him do well after a terrible 2016 is great to see. On one hand, you feel for the guy, since he’s a fine young man who just happened to struggle in the first year of a mega contract. Speaking of that contract, it’s nice to see him start to live up to that $186 million blockbuster.
With that in mind, is Heyward “back?” Let’s look at the numbers.
Slashing .257/.314/.404 in 75 games thus far doesn’t jump off the page but it’s a start. When you consider what he did last year any type of improvement is welcome. Perhaps the biggest improvement has come in the power and run-producing department.
That game-winning homer, his eighth, eclipsed his season total from last year. He’s also on-pace to finish with the third-most RBI he’s ever had in a season, even after missing time with injury. In a lineup that has seen several players struggle with run-production, Heyward’s resurgence has been key.
Still work to do
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However there’s a silver lining. The on-base percentage is still a disappointment, especially when you consider that it was a big reason why many defended the massive contract he received. We all know by now that Heyward’s tinkered with his swing, but that swing seems to have made him more aggressive.
He’s swinging at more outside pitches while making less contact with them. He’s also swinging at more pitches overall, and it’s showing in his walk totals. With only 21 so far, he’s on-pace to finish with under 40 for the season. That on-base player the Cubs were hoping to get in December 2015 just hasn’t shown up yet.
But will it? Ah, the oft-asked question that arises when players don’t live up to expectations. When Heyward signed, there were arguments against it.. Some thought that a player who had probably peaked offensively wasn’t worth over $20 million a year, no matter how good they were defensively.
Since Heyward is now unlikely to initiate his opt-out clause, he’ll have all the time in the world to convince the Cubs that they didn’t make a mistake in signing him. Being that he started the team meeting that helped end the team’s 108-year championship drought, he ironically already has a place in team lore whilst amassing only five hits in that year’s postseason.
So is Jason Heyward “back?” Not really, but he’s working on it. And hey, that’s OK.