Chicago Cubs: Giving Jason Heyward’s bat one more chance in 2018

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

After two years of an overall disappointing batting performance with the Chicago Cubs, there is still reason to believe Jason Heyward can meet initial expectations in 2018.

It has been almost exactly two years since Jason Heyward signed with the Chicago Cubs for $184 million, which set sky-high expectations for the veteran outfielder. It has not gone exactly as most thought it would – despite a World Series ring and two Gold Gloves. His bat has not been nearly as productive as it had been in years’ past.

His first year as a Cub, he slashed .230/.306/.325 with seven home runs in 142 games. This was a major step down from his 2015 season in St. Louis and previous campaigns in Atlanta. The mechanics he used in 2016 were very funky as all parts of his body were moving in a kind of wobbly way and that prevented him from squaring up the ball. This resulted in lots of weak grounders and pop-ups.

After making a big locker room speech in Game 7 of the World Series, Heyward went to work on his hitting mechanics. He brought his hands down a bit in effort to get to the ball quicker and smoother.

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2017 was better. In 126 games, he slashed .259/.326/.389 with 11 home runs. Still not what was expected when he signed though. His on-base was right around average and he still had flashes of his 2016 self. While he did hit into some tough luck, .284 BABIP and many line drives that went just foul, there was still no consistency.

One interesting note is that Heyward’s best months were arguably the first and last of the season. Through the first month he slashed .279/.340/.407 and the last month he slashed .263/.364/.434 with a wRC+ of 112. Not to mention he hit six of his home runs in said months.

Why Heyward is worth still having some faith in

Many probably roll their eyes while reading this thinking, “We said this last year.” Well there are a couple factors to keep in mind.

First of all, his resume. It is not like Heyward has been in the majors for eight years and has never had a good offensive season. He had a number of solid seasons before coming to Chicago. All his years in Atlanta he had a career .351 on-base and .429 slugging. This is counting one bad year in 2011, take that away and that comes to .357/.437.

Right before coming to the Chicago Cubs he had that great year in St. Louis slashing .293/.359/.439 with 13 home runs and a 6.1 fWAR in 154 games. Is he an incredible reigning MVP-type player he was thought to be coming up? No.

Is he a slugger? No, he only hit 20 homers and slugged over .460 once in 2012. However he clearly has had nice offensive seasons in the past.

Another reason to have a positive outlook is new hitting coach Chili Davis. Davis is one of baseball’s most respected hitting coaches and had great success with the hitters in Boston and Oakland previously. If there is a man to help Heyward break out again, Davis seems like a qualified candidate.

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At 28 years old, he has plenty of years left in him. Yes it has been frustrating seeing him at the plate in a Cubs uniform, but there still just might be hope that he comes back to his previous Atlanta/St. Louis form.