Heyward’s struggles are becoming more concerning

It’s easy to understand why fans have grown impatient with Jason Heyward as he has spent this season battling a sore right shoulder and producing disappointing offensive results.  Like media members, they are a fickle bunch that is influenced by the many highs and lows a baseball season brings.

But over the past week, opposing scouts have also started to question why Heyward has struggled so much this year.

After watching Friday night’s game against the Nationals, an American League scout familiar with the Braves returned to Turner Field Saturday and essentially described Heyward’s swing as “messed up.”

Before any of you  pin this on hitting coach Larry Parrish, it should be noted that Heyward still works with  C.J. Stewart,  a former member of the Cubs’ organization  who has served as the young outfielder’s  hitting coach dating back to his high school days.

Heyward leans on Stewart the same way Brian McCann and Chipper Jones have when they have gone to their fathers seeking help with their swing.

But for now, the difference is that Jones and McCann gained quick results when they went outside the organization looking for help.

One of the National League scouts covering this week’s series against the Rockies questioned why Heyward has been unable or unwilling to make adjustments to make him less susceptible to pitches on the inside portion of the plate.

As many of you will remember scouts were questioning Heyward’s ability to cover the inside portion of the plate during the early weeks of this season.  Nearly three months later,  there has not been any noticeable sign of improvement.

Before removing himself from Monday night’s lineup with a bruised left foot, Heyward was hitting .224 with a .319 on-base percentage and .397 slugging percentage.   Since missing nearly a month because of his shoulder, he has hit .237 with a .321 on-base percentage and  .387 slugging percentage.

It’s quite obvious Heyward has not been the same destructive force he was when he hit .292 with 10 homers and a .988 OPS in the first 47 games of his career.   In the 167 games he has played since then, he has batted .252 with 17 homers and a .759 OPS.

As Freddie Freeman has flourished over the past month, there have been even more people comparing Heyward and Freeman to the Jeff Francoeur/McCann duo that entered the Braves’ clubhouse in 2005.

Francoeur arrived as the can’t miss prospect and McCann seemed to be in his shadow.  Six years later, McCann is a six-time All-Star and Francoeur is playing for his fourth team in a span of two calendar years.

I’ll admit I’ve spent time over the past couple months making this comparison numerous times in conversations with friends and colleagues.   Quite honestly, it’s easy to become very impressed with the way Freeman has shown power to all fields and the ability to make adjustments at a young age.

It also has to do with the fact that like McCann fed off the teachings of Chipper Jones, Freeman has been like a sponge whenever  Eric Hinske and the club’s other veterans have offered advice.

But with all of this being said, it’s unfair to label either of these 21-year-old players and even hint that their career paths have already been determined.

Freeman is seemingly bound to encounter some more struggles during his rookie season and Heyward is obviously quite capable of living up to the tremendous promise he possessed last year.

With Heyward struggles adding to their offensive concerns in the outfield, the Braves have shown some interest in Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who could be utilized as a center fielder or right fielder.  (Click here to see the entry posted about Beltran  in today’s MLB.com Trade Deadline blog.)

If Beltran isn’t the answer, the Braves could also find a right-handed outfielder who could fill a platoon role with Heyward, who has hit just .173 against left-handed pitchers this year.

Some members of the Braves organization have also suggested that it might be best to send Heyward back to the Minors, where he could attempt to fix his swing and make the necessary adjustments in a rather stress-free environment.

It seems quite drastic given Heyward is just one year removed from being elected to start an All-Star Game at the ripe age of 20.  But like 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, Heyward has found that a satisfying rookie season provides no guarantees.

The Marlins sent Coghlan to the Minors to help him battle through left knee discomfort and essentially because he needed to be demoted.

It might be debatable whether Heyward has reached that point yet.  But as these next couple months and years elapse the Braves are certainly hoping to hear fewer comparisons between Heyward and Francoeur.

ODDS AND ENDS: There was at least one Tigers’ scout in attendance to watch Derek Lowe’s start against the Rockies last night… Whatever interest the Braves might have had in some of the Rockies’ relievers no longer seems to exist.  But they will continue to search the market in hopes of gaining a right-handed reliever who could lessen the work loads of Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty.

92 Comments

I love how we’re talking about Heyward being demoted with a slash line of .224/.319/.397 and Jordan Schafer isn’t an option to be demoted with a slash line of ohhh what? Only .230/.295/.311? Oh my god….

If Heyward would look at video from last year and this year, he would know what is wrong with his swing. I don’t see why he had to change his batting stance in the 1st place. You can look at video of him early in last season and look at video from him this season and you can tell a huge difference. It’s common sense.

Demoting Heyward would make no sense. His OPS is better than Nates and Schafers.

It’s always nice to see that we can still write free from the tortuous bounds of reason and logic.

Stop hating on Heyward. Just quit.

Stop.

Seriously.

maybe he should start finding hiw way onto the field and people wont be hating.

Maybe Jason should lean on Larry Wayne Sr. for a while.

This CJ Stewart guy may be the sentimental favorite, but Heyward needs to realize that this is not Henry County High School. His swing continues to worsen as the season goes on and it’s time for drastic action, even if it requires moving on to someone else. Or spending some time in the minors. Remember Bobby Cox’s stubborn insistence last year on leaving Nate McLouth in the lineup, even though he was screwing up left and right? That was a big component in our post-season ending in with a whimper rather than a bang. Sometimes you have to make the hard calls for the sake of the whole team (and the fans!), even when you don’t like it.

Who are you people?

I was thinking the same thing reading through those comments. But at least it’s something different than reading comments were everyone is arguing with Bill, Zidane and NC’s crazy trade proposals.

Why is it all the baseball people seem to agree with me?

ajcbraves David O’Brien
#Braves’ Fredi G: Schafer’s been better than his stats indicate, and SS Gonzalez doesn’t have to hit. DOB Blog. http://bit.ly/pFqKSk

What do you expect Fredi to say? He is awful?

cant wait till gonzalez is gone….brag all you want about his defense and runs saved… but in reality… it gets canceled out with the runs lost on his AB’s

Mark, I remember this is EXACTLY the sort of article you wrote about frenchy just before everyone realised that he was in serious decline. You showed that frenchy’s last 180 games (or something) had him with a horrible OPS. Now you have spotted the same thing within Heywards stats which is very interesting. I hope you are wrong and heyward starts to crush the ball again, but you have a track record of spotting that players simply arent capable of performing (like frenchy) before the braves organisation seems to realise and give up on them.

because heyward is supposed to be better than schafer.. thats why

Good username!

The biggest difference between McCann/Freeman and Francoeur/Heyward: ATTITUDE

You don’t here crap from Mac and Freddy. They show up everyday and they go about their business. And they seem happy to do it. Francoeur and Heyward carry themselves like they were just preordained for greatness. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, but it seems quite obvious that both of them are stubborn to make adjustments and they don’t look very happy. Really, could Heyward get any further off the plate? That’s his answer to hit the inside pitch? That’s nice. Now all he gets is outside corner pitches or breaking stuff away. He can’t do anything with it, because he can’t reach it. Unless of course he cheats and lunges into the plate, but then he gets busted inside with a fastball and surprise, surprise he can’t hit it or just fouls it off.

I am all for guys having their “goto” instructor/advisor, but when the results are going in the wrong direction then I think the organization needs to step in and say enoughs enough. Brian McCann’s dad was mentioned during the all-star game a few years ago and whoever was telling the story said that he could get a light pole to hit .300. Maybe the Braves need to hire him.

I agree Katjam…

Heyward, like Frenchy, is a nice kid, but he seems to have a bit of arrogance. He acts like has has already made it. He makes stupid mistakes in the field and seems to have made NO adjustments. That’s what hitting a pitching is all about…adjustments. Maybe if we had a proactive hitting coach he would go to Heyward and tell him what needs to be done. I really hope Heyward doesn’t end up like Frenchy. It is really worrisome that our organization would fail to properly develop those two. I would not be opposed to a little trip down to the minors to work with the minor league hitting instructor to get this all worked out.

You aren’t opposed to it? WHEW! Alright Wren, pull the trigger, you have Mike’s approval. ;P

DOB say Pence to Braves is most likely trade. Ahead of Lowe or Beltran.

Go get him, QTip.

Wow, me and Bill agree on something. Line up with pence and chipper back:
Prado – Lf
Pence – Cf
Mac – C
Chipper -3b
Freddie -1b
Uggs -2b
Heyward -rf
Gonzo ss

I would prefer to have gonzo and lowe traded, bring up minor and put prado at ss. Start pence, heyward, and shafer in the of.

Damn. all of BillyBobReefers’ kids have joined the party.

How’s that pain in your Weinus, there? Maybe it’s got heat frustration.

looks like Roy took a Holladay…..

Pherris how is the frillies pen doing? Your starters arent making it as deep anymore because they were overworked in the first half. O dear. P.s. Tell Ryan Howard that the aim of baseball is the hit the ball with the bat.

How has Heyward shown all of this arrogance I have heard so much about from the comments? The guy is humble to the point that it’s sort of irritating to listen to. And any comparisons to Franceour is idiotic.

As humble as his words are, the fact that he hasn’t made any noticeable changes to his approach shows a bit of arrogance. As people adjust to your abilities you have to adjust again, and he seems to have made no changes.

Time for Braves’ front office to conclude that they made the mistake. Jason wasn’t ready. I would like to see Jason go to AAA for a few weeks and work on his swing and get back his confidence and swagger. I just don’t think that he has the psychie to do that. Kovoon you’re our resident sports psychologist, what do you say? After all, he might go to AAA and suck there too. Then what? There is no question that Freddie Freeman is the REAL DEAL.

Regarding Hunter Pence. He is another RAW talent. But I caution you all (the same way that I did regarding Dan Uggla) He strikes out A LOT! Haven’t checked his splits yet to see how he fares against different teams. May not be enough data yet. Proceed with caution Frank.

A funny thing has happened to Mr. Heyward on his way to the hall of fame. He can’t hit lefties, and leads the league in weak dribblers to the infield. Old brave fans like me remember the many injuries that were common with Horner and Washington looks like Jason has that down very well. Someone ought to run his numbers since the all star break last year and they would probably scare you. Won’t even get into his playing every batter on the warning track. He seems to have lost his drive perhaps Freddie could give him some pointers.

Let’s see.. broken finger after the all star break.. same injury that ruined Derek Lee’s second half as well.. injured shoulder pre-break 2011.. probably had something to do with his numbers since he was carrying the team at the beginning of the year. “FREDDIE IS THE REAL DEAL!” Wasn’t that similar to the 2010 chant for Jason?

Hunter Pence has played in over 650 games at the major league level. How is that “RAW talent”? Splits against different teams? What?

Pence is Raw talent, and you know what – go get him! Just checked his splits, and he is a consistent hitter. He has only struggled against a few AL teams. He hits righties and lefties equally the same, and his strike outs are not NEARLY what I thought they were off the top of my head. (why sometimes you shouldn’t talk until you’ve looked.) And he has played 670 games.

Did anyone watch Heyward play last year? He hit the ball sooo hard and drew a ton of walks. He does not need a minor league assignment, just some time to break loose. We gave Uggs 3 month to break out of it. Heyward will be fine. He is still trying to get on track from the injury. If you are only concerned about LH pitchers, let Wilkin have some ABs. Heyward is completely different than JF – see OBP. BTW, JF’s stats are now back down to what we are used to. He will be out of the game in 3 years. I am surprised KJ is having another good year.

“KJ is having another good year”, huh? I am assuming you mean Kelly Johnson. Is a .217 BA a good year? The whole argument of Uggs vs. Heyward isn’t real sound. Uggs had a real consistent 5 years, JH had a good month. He need’s to do something about that swing though. It is kind of ridiculous and not getting better.

Sometimes when you get hurt but play through it, you start developing bad habits to try to compensate for your ailing body part. But unfortunately, you don’t undo the bad habits quickly after being healed. That’s what I think happened to Heyward… he still has some bad habits from last year’s injury. Whoever mentioned watching video may be on to something.
Sidenote: the Phillies are losing to the Chicago Scrubs again.

Just saw that Mark wrote a piece about the Braves being interested in Carlos Beltrán. DO. NOT. WANT.

Beachy has just met Coors field. A rude introduction…

Well we spotted em 5. This is just another day at the Ballpark in CO.

make that 6

Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth are both completely useless. Lets be objective about this. But I dont want to send prospect to the muts just for a rental.

Thought Nate was the 2nd coming. A little fickle aren’t you?

No I just think he is a good guy and should be supported. Funny how you have shut up about schafer now he is 5 for his last 35 isnt it. He is horrible.

Yeah doing a great job of supporting Schafer, huh, dufus. I thought you weren’t a real fan unless you supported ALL the players? You need to get a little more consistent, monkey boy.

Rockies tried to go to the well once too often with that slider, and Dan made ‘em pay. Let’s hope that gets us rolling.

WOW! Dan went down and got a breaking ball! Significant.

Cliff Lee goes only 6 in Chicago. You really have to wonder about that tiring Phillies Bull Pen.

Not just the ‘pen, but also that rotation that (according to our resident Phanatic) averages 13 innings a start. (hyperbole, but you get it)

tongue firmly planted in cheek.

P Bear.. I always thought of “raw talent” as undeveloped or unproven.. hence the “raw” part. I would give that title to a guy like Schafer over Pence, who is actually an above average player as opposed to talented and sub-par. Semantics.. ANYWAYS.. I think Beltran could win us the NL East but for a price. I think dealing Schafer and prospects for someone like Pence or Peter Bourjos from the Angels that we could control for a while would also do the trick, but with less of an immediate impact. Fredi i huffing Glade if he thinks this team can be at its best with a leadoff hitter who has a sub-.300 OBP.

Why would anyone take Schafer?

I am loathe to give up top tier prospects for Beltran, but how sick would this lineup up be… Prado, Chipper, Beltran, McCann, Uggla, Heyward, McLouth, Gonzo. Especially if Heyward gets back into his groove. That’s some murderers’ row sh*t.

Are you still peddling that McLouth crap, Viva. I thought you had gotten over it.

You’re giving Freeman away??????????????????????

That lineup is silly, Leaves Freeman out, has McLouth in, I think Beltran should platoon with Heyward and spot Prado in LF when Chip sits(against tough lefties). Schafer is definitely in CF.

Ya because why would you leave out the worst hitter in baseball right?

As Bud and Lou would say, “Who’s on first?”

Because he’s 24 and has talent. He used to be the top prospect in the organization.

He is a complete dud. He has a .598 OPS in 350+ Ab in the majors and is hitting not alot better in his last 3 years in the minors. To get something you have to give up something. We cant just roll up our trash and get something that will help us back in return.

Same reason we can’t get the Frillies blog to take you, huh.

Bill, schafer proves you wrong basically everyday he takes the field. Just like Brooks did in the postseason last year. Your track record is beyond terrible.

Well at least I haven’t changed my opinion every day for however interminably long you have been here. You wanted to trade Uggla, still want to do that? Now McClutch sucks too. I could go on and on.

Seriously Bill, you wouldnt play Carlos friggin Beltran everyday just to play Jordan Schafer. Wow that is stupid. I dont think if they pick up Beltran, who would be our best hitter, that he would be platooning somehow.

You mean like BMAC who actually is our best hitter? Beltran can’t play CF, McLouth for sure can’t play it, who do you want to play center?

But you are gonna be self employed and making 200k a year, 2 years from now. You know the drunk down at the 7-11 said the same thing the other day.

Still want to trade Uggla monkey boy?

I think you were a BIG kAWAKAMI FAN WEREN’T YOU zIPPY?

I dont want to argue with you Bill. I retire from this blog from now. My last words? Schafer has an OPS of .597. Haha, Bye :)

Wow, Dan. Earning that game check tonight, aren’t you?

1 more comment. Thats two horrible plays schafer has made in centre on balls he should of caught. Bye forever guys. Good luck. I am leaving this blog forever now.

Promises, promises…….

What? Does Schafer not like Corey Gearrin? Tough play but should have had that one.

good night ladies.

Wow yes I really see how schafer is a great defender this game. What a terrible route he takes on balls. Bye forever guys. :)

The problem with Zippy is that “gone forever” only lasts about a minute.

Going after Beltran is a GAMBLE. It could either be really amazing and win us a pennant, or it could be a bust and we would have to live with playing and getting beat by our own prospects in our own division for the forceable future. I mean – how bad would it suck if we had to play the Rangers all the time? Feliz closing games and Andrus stealing bases… Is it worth the risk? Would Beltran make that big of a difference? I say no… but I’ve been wrong before.

I think Pence is the best acquisition. No spill back from having to play prospects. Team control through 2013, better versatility in the field and we would let the phillies take the same risk you are talking about with Beltran. The trade cost in prospects is gonna be close. Pence is gonna make a little more, but we have some salary space opening up with Lowe trade, KK going back to wherever he came from, McLouth 7MM disappearing from total. That probably totals 24MM at least in salary savings. If we could get chipper to retire, we could go after a blue chip SS as well. I haven’t looked at FA SS’s but I know Furcal is coming up off top of my head.

someone lock the door before he comes back.

It wouldn’t do any good. He’s like the drunk teenager that keeps coming back and back and back…. I’m sorry about tangling with him, but I just can’t stand to watch that kind of stupidity.

now you know how I feel when it comes to NObravesfan…

Was a long day at the office, just ran 4 miles, and came back to see us getting killed. Brain was fried. LINEUP.. Prado, Chipper, Beltran, McCann, Uggla, Freeman, Heyward, Gonzo. Didn’t see I had penciled in our backup outfielder and was playing Prado at first to give Freddie a night off.

You don’t seriously have CB in CF do you? That would be worse than when McRagarm was roaming out there.

Our coaching at the ML level is really suspect. McCann wasn’t running with the IF back conceding the run. FG gave up on the game when we were down 4 in the 4th in COLORADO. 4 runs is an avg inning here.

OR… Pence/Bourjos/Bourn, Prado, Chipper, McCann, Uggla, Freeman, Heyward, Gonzo. And when J-Hey gets it all back.. Prado, Heyward, Chipper, Mac, Uggla, Freeman, P/B/B, Gonzo.

Bourn and Bourjos aren’t even on the table. Heyward should probably be platooning and down the order to protect him from further damage to his swing(for a while). I think Pence plays RF, JH spends some MiL time and Schafer and Prado stay where they are in the order.

I’ll give Schafer a few more weeks. I’ve always wanted him to do well, but a sub-300 OBP at leadoff just isn’t acceptable.

Schafer was taking pitches, drawing walks and getting on base when he came up.When do we start looking at who is working with these young guys when they come up?

I hope Beltran would not become another Derrick Lee acquisition. He seemed like a great guy but was too beat up to provide enough offense to get us over the hump. If we can’t get pence, i would just try to unload McLouth and get a new right handed 4th OF (hence why I mentioned Frenchy before, however, he may be similar to an Ankiel at this point)

I don’t think the organization could wipe that pie off its face if they did that, but he would be a serviceable RHB to platoon with JH for now. Probably comes cheap too.

Great article on Brooks Conrad. I have a lot of respect for him and his family. This is a must read for any Braves fan. http://www.thepostgame.com/features/201107/braves-infielder-brooks-conrad-looks-back-night-his-life-almost-fell-apart

It is a good article for all baseball fans. And, with guys like Conrad and Chris Coste with the Phillies who,2 or 3 years back, was even older than Conrad when he was a rookie, I think in terms of hanging in there long enough to earn a pension. But even if they do not, the MLB minimum is not too shabby for as long as it lasts.

Heck of an article, no doubt. Speaks to the values of perseverence, truthfulness, confidence, and plain old hard work.

Great article. I saw that yesterday. Glad you shared it here.

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