Heading into 2018, his rain delay speech during Game 7 marked the high point of Jason Heyward‘s Chicago Cubs career. But things are changing this season.
After another disappointing offensive performance last year, I actually started to wonder if this is what Jason Heyward was now – an elite defensive right fielder who would never really get back on track at the dish.
Now, I’m happy to say I was very, very wrong.
No one could explain why Heyward seemingly forgot how to hit after signing his mega deal with the Cubs. After putting up a .784 OPS during the first six years of his career, the former first rounder averaged a .669 OPS in his first two years on the North Side.
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His power evaporated overnight, leaving fans scratching their heads. Why would Theo Epstein shell out $184 million to a guy who can’t hit? Surely it wasn’t just to keep him from going back to St. Louis, right?
Meet the Cubs’ best hitter in the last month
Epstein’s faith in the five-time Gold Glove Award winner is paying off. After taking two years of heat for the move, the Cubs’ front office is looking like the geniuses they are, thanks to Heyward’s offensive resurgence.
In the last 30 days, Jason Heyward – yes, that Jason Heyward, is leading the Cubs’ offensive charge. The outfielder carries a .348/.394/.522 slash line over the last 24 games. In those 92 at-bats, he’s struck out just nine times, drawing seven walks in the process. In all honesty, it’s hard to find a flaw in his approach at the plate right now.
“He’s the guy that’s really ascended among the group,” Maddon told reporters earlier this week. “He’s made all the difference by being able to hit second and providing some really big hits in the latter part of the game.”
On the year, Heyward is slashing .283/.345/.429 line with 11 doubles. Keep in mind that last season, he hit only 15 doubles – in 70 more games. He’s driving the ball with authority, using the whole field and giving the Cubs a huge offensive weapon they had otherwise lacked in right field.
A big boost to the Cubs’ lineup
During all this, he continues to do what he does in right field. What does that mean? Making near-impossible plays look routine, like this perfect throw to nail a runner at home in the Cubs’ recent homestand finale.
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No one knows what the future will hold. But we do know this. Jason Heyward has done everything to succeed with this team. In the offseason and even when he was sidelined with an injury, he continued to work on his mechanics.
And, at long last, all that work seems to be paying off.