Heyward is a tall, young, left-handed outfielder with a lot of hype. It only makes sense that he should be compared to The Kid, Ken Griffey, Jr. With just less than one full season under his belt, we don’t have a lot of data on Heyward, but what we do have looks pretty damn good.
Heyward began his career as a 17-year-old on Atlanta’s rookie league team, playing in just the last few weeks of that season. He started 2008 in A ball, and finished that year at High-A Myrtle Beach. While his first two season, 139 games worth, were impressive, it was his 2009 season that made him this year’s number one prospect in the Majors. His average, OBP and Slugging all improved, despite playing as high as AA and AAA for the first time. With just 50 games under his belt at AA or higher, the Braves started him in right field on opening day this year. His triple slash line in the minors was .318/.391/.508 (avg/obp/slugging), and an even more impressive .353/.447/.595 in AA and AAA. I mean, it would be hard for any team to keep a 6’5″, 240-lb slugger with those numbers down in the minors too long. In his first at bat, he launched a 476-ft no-doubter over the right field fence at Turner Field off Cubs’ long-time ace Carlos Zambrano. Quite a welcome to the major leagues.
Way back when Griffey really was just a kid, minor league stats were not as thorough, but in 129 minor league games between 1987 and 1988, Junior hit .320 and slugged .576, very comparable to Heyward’s stats. Griffey began his career in Seattle at 19 years old, just one year younger than Heyward did this last season, but struggled a little adjusting to major league pitching. Griffey slashed a .264/.329/.420, and hit 16 home runs in 127 games that year. Fangraphs pins him at a .333 wOBA and 2.8 WAR that season. Thus far in his first season in the show, Heyward has slashed a mammoth .286/.375/.476 line, with 18HR, a .380 wOBA and 4.5 WAR. Jason Heyward has put up a better wOBA this season than Ryan Braun, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley and Hanley Ramirez, and he is just behind Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder. In short, Jason Heyward is having a great season by anyone’s standards, and he is doing in his first run in the majors at the age of 20. He is good, and he is going to be really good for a long time.
First season with at least 100 games for some of today’s best hitters:
OF Jason Heyward: 135 games, 18HR, .286/.375/.476, 0.380 wOBA
OF Ryan Braun: 113 games, 34 HR, .324/.370/.634, 0.422 wOBA
1B Ryan Howard*: 159 games, 58 HR, .313/.425/.659, 0.436 wOBA
3B Evan Longoria: 122 games, 27 HR, .272/.343/.531, 0.373 wOBA
1B Albert Pujols: 161 games, 37 HR, .329/.403/.610, 0.421 wOBA
OF Josh Hamilton*: 156 games, 32 HR, .304/.371/.530, 0.385 wOBA
OF Matt Holliday: 121 games, 14 HR, .290/.349/.488, 0.358 wOBA
I think Heyward definitely fits into this group, and it will be fun to watch him hit for years to come.
* Played a number of games at the major league level before getting in a season with at least 100 games.