Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward can’t hack it at the plate

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have an overcrowding problem developing in their outfield. With Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora are all emerging as everyday options, what does that mean for Jason Heyward?

When the Chicago Cubs signed right fielder Jason Heyward three years ago expectations were sky-high. Heyward, 26 at the time, was coming off his best season at the plate, posting a career-high .293 batting average with the St. Louis Cardinals.

In Heyward’s first two seasons with the Cubs he has not had the success at the plate many thought and hoped he would. In his first seasons on the North Side, the right fielder hit just .230 while slightly raising it to .259 in year two.

Can Chili make a difference?

This offseason the Cubs made a change at hitting coach, hiring Chili Davis to replace John Mallee. Davis has been working with Heyward behind closed doors and the Cubs hope to see better results this season.

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It’s still early in the spring, but, to this point, Heyward continues to struggle with the bat. He only has three hits and carries a poor .143 batting average.

Although Heyward scuffles in the batters box he is undoubtedly one of the best right fielders in baseball. He is a five-time winner of the Gold Glove and has won it in the last four consecutive seasons.

Scuffles or not, Cubs are fine

As far as manager Joe Maddon is concerned, too many outfielders is a nice problem to have.

"“Everybody is going to play,” he said. “Everybody needs to play. That’s a good problem. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a meritocracy, necessarily. Although, what isn’t? I’m just going to say go play, we’ll get you out there. I think they’re all going to do well. Of course, I’m labeled as being an optimist. But I really believe that to be true. Jason’s made some wonderful adjustments and I love what I’m seeing right now.”"

If Heyward continues to struggle at the plate this season the Cubs might have to consider making a change in the outfield. Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora are all young, hungry and have shown signs they are ready to play on an everyday basis.

In Schwarber’s first full season last year, he had struggles of his own hitting just .211 but managing 30 home runs. The slugger came into camp in shape and has had a good spring with nine hits, three of which left the yard.

The answer at leadoff?

Happ caught everybody’s attention this spring with his team-leading four home runs. He is hitting .391 with nine hits and has made a strong case to be the Cubs leadoff hitter come Opening Day.

As for Almora, he crushed left-handed pitching last season, hitting .342 as opposed to .271 against righties. He has struggled early this spring, recording just four knocks, all of which were extra-base hits.

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In the end, Heyward will start the season as the Cubs starting right fielder. However, if he doesn’t produce at the plate the Cubs clearly have other options. Almora can start in center, Schwarber can stay in left and Happ can take over in right. If Heyward isn’t careful he could be nothing more than a $185 million defensive replacement.