With the offseason being fully operational, the predictions are rolling in on who the Yankees are going to chase. One of the top names this year is Jason Heyward, who would be an asset to any team. At age 26, he could bring youth and durability to a Yankees team that has been plagued with injuries for the last few years. Last spring the Atlanta Braves put Heyward on the trading block and the Yankees expressed interest, but the Cardinals swept in and snagged him in a 4-player trade. Now he’s on the free agent market.
He began his career making a name for himself as a power hitter, posting a .277/.393/.456 slash line in his rookie year (2010), netting a 2nd place showing in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, and even cracking the top 20 for the NL MVP vote. Since then, he’s gotten away from the hitting and focused on his fielding. He has earned 2 Gold Gloves for his play in right field, and last year he ranked 7th in the majors in fielding percentage among hitters who played 80 games or more. Personally I would like to see a hitter that can hit over .300 in the Yankees lineup, but he brings diversity in his approach at the plate, with a good mix of average and power. The impressive thing about his hitting as that he heated up as he went along. April and May were somewhat slow, but by August he was on fire, and his postseason batting average was .357. That may be directly attributable to his durability and age. Did I mention he’s only 26 years old?
The troubling thing with Heyward’s bat is his situational hitting. Last year he hit .293. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, he only hit .245. When the game was late and close (after the 6th and either tied, up by one, or under pitching save conditions), he hit .244. When you’re hitting 50 points below your average, there is cause for concern. Also, for some reason he stopped hitting the ball in the air last year. His GB/FB ratio hit 1.4, whereas it was 0.81 the three years prior. The fear is that he’s lost some discipline at the plate and is just trying to make contact instead of driving the ball. In Yankees Stadium, we want our left-handed hitters to be driving the ball while swinging up.
The last thing, which could spell trouble, is the rumor that he is looking for a long-term contract. At his age, offers for a 10-year deal are not out of the question. Being somewhat a complete package – good hitter, good fielder, good runner, young – he could command over $20M per year. I think the Yankees should think long and hard before offering should deals. When I say think, I mean think about the top 54.7% of their 2016 projected payroll, which is all 7-10 year deals and all but one are a question mark in terms of their physical health.
I think Jason Heyward would be a tremendous asset to the Yankees outfield and lineup, adding youth, range, power, and durability. Hopefully, we can get him at a fair price. A lineup that reads Tex followed by ARod followed by J-Hey has a nice ring to it.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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