Heyward and Hank Aaron make their arrivals
Jason Heyward has arrived at Spring Training to enhance the growing legend that has built during his Minor League career. But with the presence of Hank Aaron, there truly was a legend present in Braves camp this morning.
While Aaron has flown to Florida with other Braves execs to just spend a couple days around camp, Heyward will be spending the next six weeks attempting to prove he’s ready to begin the season as Atlanta’s starting right fielder.
After making his arrival to Braves camp on Monday morning, Chipper Jones once again expressed that he is confident that the 20-year-old Heyward will be quickly transitioning himself from being one of those invitees with a high jersey numbers to being a big leaguer on Opening Day.
“I’m going to say he’s not (wearing) No. 71 at the end (of Spring Training),” Jones said in reference to Heyward’s current jersey number. “Just a hunch.”
Heyward, who is widely considered the game’s top prospect, has grown to be even more physically imposing than he was last year, when he experienced his first big league camp. Conditioning and maturity have allowed him to blossom into a 6-foot-5, 245 pound muscular figure.
After Derek Lowe said Heyward “looks like an outside linebacker”, Jones said, “He’s Jevon Kearse.”
Whatever the case, Heyward’s success over the next couple of weeks will play a big role on how the Braves look during the early weeks and months of the season. Despite the fact that he has compiled fewer than 200 at-bats above the Class A level, he is viewed as potential difference maker in this lineup.
When the Braves made their half-hearted attempt to pursue Johnny Damon, they recognized he might be able to improve their lineup as a leadoff hitter. But if Heyward proves he’s ready for the Majors, they knew that they probably could utilize the dollars that were earmarked for Damon in a more efficient manner.
If Heyward struggles during the early weeks of camp, the Braves may evaluate possibilities to grab a low-cost outfielder, who could help Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera in the corner outfield spots. But for now, they are hoping their 20-year-old phenom is with them when the Cubs visit Turner Field for the April 5 Opening Day matinee.
“He’s going to be fine,” Jones said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He knows how to handle it. I doubt that any of us are going to have to say a word. We’re just going to sit back and watch. The kid has a good head on his shoulders. He knows what he has to do. He was here last year and he knew last year that he was going to be in this situation this year. He’s been preparing all year for this moment.”
Troy Glaus also arrived in camp today. There haven’t been any sightings of Yunel Escobar or Martin Prado.