In his 11th year in the majors, Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward is reaching his potential.
The Chicago Cubs have relied on some surprise sources of offense as of late. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Willson Contreras haven’t contributed near what was expected of them while Ian Happ and Jason Heyward are tearing the cover off of the ball at the moment.
While Happ has been the Cubs’ most significant offensive contributor so far, Heyward’s case is, to me, at least, the more exciting and encouraging. Heyward showed great potential in Atlanta with a good bat and unreal glove, but the bat never really showed up in Chicago. He gave us a glimpse of what he could be last year, posting his first OPS+ at or above 100 in a Cubs uniform, but he still wasn’t reaching the heights expected of him.
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This year, under the management of David Ross, Heyward looks like he has it figured out. He’s still not hitting against lefties with only a .503 OPS, but against right-handers, he’s been unreal. He has a 1.134 OPS against righties this year with five home runs in 74 plate appearances. What’s even more impressive is that his overall numbers in August are even better, posting a 1.094 OPS in the month.
It seemed like Heyward was ready to take a step forward, especially with Ross’s better deployment of him. However, Jordan Bastian noted how Heyward rapidly improved after the Cardinals’ COVID 19 outbreak kept the Cubs on the shelf for a series. He partly attributes this to Heyward taking more pitches, thus dropping his swing rate by about ten percent since last year.
We’ve seen this “take more, swing less” approach with them all year, but Heyward is really taking advantage of this mindset. More importantly, he’s also destroying offspeed and breaking pitches to the tune of a .636 and .667 SLG, respectively. His timing has clearly gotten a lot better this year, and that alone is contributing heavily to the boost in his offensive numbers.
Obviously, this is a small sample size in this shortened season, but the signs are there that Heyward can continue this production at least somewhat for the team. He’s making useful adjustments to his timing and discipline that will continue to give him success so long as he adheres to these practices.