Jason Heyward has had an up-and-down career so far in Chicago. When he signed his eight-year, $184 million contract in the offseason before the magical 2016 season, the Cubs thought they had their big-time free agent signing. Heyward was coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
As we all know it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Heyward during his time with the team. In 2016 there was a lot of pressure on him to perform because of that contract. It was, by far, the worst season of Heyward’s career. Former manager Joe Maddon had Heyward penciled in the two-hole in the lineup to start the season.
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By the end of the year, Heyward was hitting at the bottom of the lineup and wound up not starting some games in the playoffs and the World Series. It was a rough season for Heyward but credit to him for not giving up and just to keep working.
In 2017 and 2018 it was more of the same from Heyward. It wasn’t as bad offensively but nothing that the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him to the deal. Even with all the struggles offensively Heyward still played Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field.
Then in 2019, Heyward’s work at the plate started to pay off. He went and turned in his best offensive season to that point. The numbers were even a little misleading because when he wasn’t batting leadoff he was great. When he was asked to hit leadoff he struggled, like most Cubs that have been asked to fill that role since Dexter Fowler departed.
In 2020 the offensive numbers got even better. Heyward slashed .265/.392/.456 with six home runs and 22 RBI during the shortened season. He was one of the Cubs’ two best players in 2020 – along with fellow outfielder Ian Happ. The duo carried the team at the plate while most of the core players struggled at the dish.
Cubs: Jason Heyward will build off of his solid 2020 performance
I expect big things again from Heyward in 2021. This has been building since 2019 and he’s just gotten better every year since. There’s no reason to expect that to stop now.
Now I know many people are talking about Heyward’s performance on Opening Day. After all, he struck out three times in the loss to the Pirates. It was the first game of the season on a very cold day in Chicago so I wouldn’t read much into it There is a reason why the baseball season is 162 games; guys go through ups-and-downs throughout the entire year.