How Has Heyward Gone So Wayward?

Let me put it this way: my fantasy baseball league (which I won, by the way — hope you’re reading this, Greg) has 12 teams, and not one of those teams had Jason Heyward on its roster by the season’s end. This is unexpected — to say the least — from a player who signed an eight-year, $184 million contract this past offseason.

In a season where the Chicago Cubs had the best offensive output, it gets easier to ignore when a player underperforms at any particular time during the season. What is surprising about the season Heyward has had is that the “particular time of the season” was the entire season.

For a player who was the hottest commodity on the free agent market this past offseason, it is truly remarkable how underwhelming Heyward has been offensively this year. His final slash line for the season was .230/.306/.325. He hit just seven home runs, marking the first time he has been unable to hit in the double digits. He scored 61 runs, drove in 49, and stole 11 bases. And, to get fancy with numbers, his wRC+ was 70 (100 is average) while his WAR ended at 1.5.

Now, this seems like a good time to interject myself and note that what I am not saying is that Heyward is bad at baseball, as that would be a horrific overstatement. He still roams the outfield like a graceful gazelle with an outfield DRS of 18 and right-field DRS of 14, good for fourth among outfielders and third in right field. Plus, you can ultimately make statistics say whatever you want. What I am saying, though, is that while Theo Epstein & Co. are a braintrust of baseball savants, I have a feeling they did not expect this offensive production from the $184 million man.

So, where does Heyward go from here? Maybe he never fixes it, but continues his showcase of defensive prowess in the outfield while doing just enough to get by offensively in a stacked lineup. Or maybe Heyward has just been saving it all up for the playoffs, where he can inexplicably pull a Daniel Murphy and hit seven home runs on their road to the World Series and baffle us all. Most likely, however, Heyward simply writes off this year as a failure offensively and works out the kinks in the offseason — the talent is still there, deep down, somewhere.

Or maybe he should just call up ol’ Timmy Tebow for some hitting advice. Because, you know, baseball.

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