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Chicago Cubs: Heyward has turned back the clock in 2019

Because of his team-record $184 million contract, Jason Heyward will likely never be evaluated fairly. He wasn’t worth that money when the Cubs brought him in prior to the 2016 campaign – but that’s hardly a reason to place unreasonable expectations on a player.

Heyward has never been a 30-100 threat – ever. But after a strong 2015 showing with the St. Louis Cardinals, people had delusions of grandeur for the outfielder when he came to Chicago. In his first year, his largest contribution aside from his defense came in the weight room at Progressive Field during the infamous Game 7 rain delay. And, for that, he garnered the love and affection of fans across the world.

But the ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentality took a stranglehold over Cubs fans in 2017 and 2018, with both seasons ending shy of a return to the Fall Classic. Both years, Heyward was a below-league average offensive player, posting an 84 and 94 OPS+, respectively.

2019, however, has been a very different story for the 29-year-old outfielder, who enters Sunday with a .267/.357/.460 line. His .816 OPS, over the course of an entire season, would represent his highest since his rookie season back in 2010.

The biggest difference this season for Heyward has been his ability to drive the ball. He’s already set his personal best as a Cub, blasting 14 home runs this season – and he’s gone through stretches where he uses the whole field remarkably well. If he can remain a positive offensive presence in the lineup through the second half, the lineup gets deeper and much more potent.