Chipper on Heyward: Braves need him from Day 1

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – For the first time this spring, the Braves used a lineup Tuesday night against Philadelphia that looked like one they might use opening day.

“Pretty close,” manager Bobby Cox said of the possibility. “[But] I don’t know if Heyward will be hitting that low, if he keeps going like this.”

Cox was smiling when he said it, but that comment reflected two truths: Jason Heyward is playing his way onto the opening-day roster, and the 20-year-old phenom seems too good to bat seventh for very long.

“Chipper might be batting seventh,” said veteran third baseman Chipper Jones, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games with a jammed left thumb.

Jones said that in jest, but turned serious when he said the hot-hitting Heyward should — and would — make the opening-day roster.

“We want to leave out of here with the top 25 guys in camp, and he’s certainly one of them,” Jones said of the right fielder, who was Baseball America’s minor league Player of the Year in 2009.

Cox and general manager Frank Wren insist the Braves will take the best 25 on their opening day roster and say that financial issues would not keep Heyward off the roster.

That situation, for those unaware: If the Braves keep him in Class AAA for a couple of weeks to begin the season, they could assure Heyward won’t be a free agent before the end of the 2016 season, instead of 2015.

If they keep him in Class AAA until the end of May, the Braves could assure Heyward is not eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season, instead of after the 2012 season.

Last season, the Braves kept top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson in Class AAA until the first week of June. They said it had nothing to do with future service time and everything to do with having other starting pitchers who were ready.

The Braves could justify that move, too. Kris Medlen indeed pitched better than Hanson in April for Class AAA Gwinnett, before Medlen was the first pitcher called up as a fill-in starter. At the time, the Braves also said they didn’t want to bring up valuable Hanson just for a start or two before Tom Glavine came off the disabled list.

As it turned out, the Braves released Glavine just before the veteran left-hander was to be activated from the DL, and before Glavine would have collected a $1 million roster bonus.

Hanson joined the rotation then and went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts, finishing third for National League Rookie of the Year.

In the case of Heyward, the talent and immediate potential impact might make him an exception to those rules that some teams with payroll restrictions have followed in recent years.

With the Braves lacking another power bat for their outfield, Heyward’s potential performance might be too great to seriously consider keeping him off the opening-day roster.

“I think we need him,” Jones said. “I think we need him to be a contender in the East. We need him from Day 1. I would have said we needed Hanson from Day 1 last year. They didn’t think it was the right thing to do. It could have made a difference in the long run. It might not have, I don’t know.

“But the complexion of our lineup drastically changes if Jason Heyward’s not in there.”

Heyward hit .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs and a .611 on-base percentage in six games before Tuesday, including a mammoth two-run home run Monday against Detroit.

The Braves haven’t tipped their hand, but they might try to sign Heyward to a long-term contract long before arbitration — to buy out his arbitration years and possibly a year or two of free agency.

They did that with catcher Brian McCann when they signed him to a six-year, $27.8 million a few springs ago. With Heyward, the deal would surely have to be much larger to lock him up for that long.

61 comments Add your comment

DJ

March 9th, 2010
8:13 pm

Kelly

March 9th, 2010
8:17 pm

2nd. Go Braves!

Kelly

March 9th, 2010
8:19 pm

I loved Heyward’s hustle today. He changed a groundball into a single with his legs.

Feeanch

March 9th, 2010
8:50 pm

Wow, 4th! I’m never this on time. Start him, start him, start him!

ASHEVILLE DAWG

March 9th, 2010
8:50 pm

Go cool -J go

Feeanch

March 9th, 2010
9:05 pm

Hey DOB, two new ones from over the pond. Mumford and Sons “Sigh No More.” Better British version of the Avetts, less blurgrass punk, more 3 part harmony and tons of banjo. And Frightened Rabbit’s new one came out yesterday. Let me know what you think!

Doc Holiday

March 9th, 2010
9:39 pm

What is that Clown still doing at the leadoff spot?

This is going to be yet another nightmare..bobby is going to hang on to Nate until his OBP is 0.050.

Cox, there are another options…………matt, melky, martin……..anyone but nate, he is going to kill us as leadoff hitter, he is nothing but the worst hitter among regulars, so he should hit no higher than 8th.

Buzz Capra was a hoss

March 9th, 2010
9:41 pm

Almost time for the thinking man’s sport to begin! Hopefully Heyward comes close to living up to his hype. I say ‘comes close’ because I don’t think anyone could live up to the hype he’s getting. Sounds like a level headed kid, though. Good luck, JH!

hind tit

March 9th, 2010
10:14 pm

we need him from day one because we can’t count on chipper on an everyday basis.

DHD

March 9th, 2010
10:24 pm

All Heyward all the time. Amazing.

Look Alive

March 9th, 2010
10:26 pm

where is the write-up on the game ajc make the games your lead story

Willy

March 9th, 2010
10:45 pm

BUZZ, Football is the thinking man’s sport, and by a long way. Anybody can be a baseball fan, and only dummies pay to see what has become of the national pastime.

Willy

March 9th, 2010
10:46 pm

That being said, I’m very much looking forward to watching Heyward play…on TV.

Willy

March 9th, 2010
10:48 pm

LOOK ALIVE, remember it’s spring training. The games don’t matter. The kid is the story (see what I mean, Buzz).

bobby's cox

March 9th, 2010
11:24 pm

Wish the Braves had seriously looked into signing Hank Blalock. Would have been a low cost option for 1B and 3B rotation, especially with Brittle Jones at Third and Glaus Repair at First. Hinske is a decent option, but doesn’t have the pop that Hank could provide.

Carl

March 9th, 2010
11:28 pm

Heyward makes McDonough look better.
Another note: Have you seen Andrew Jones? He looks slim and has
the look that He might be ready for a better year.

bobby's cox

March 9th, 2010
11:32 pm

Braves with the “Clan” McLouth batting leadoff equals FAIL. To borrow a line from noted thespian and ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson-” C’mmon Man!!” Too bad there is not anyone on the roster that would be considered a catalyst for creating havoc at the top of the order.

scottbravesfan

March 9th, 2010
11:51 pm

Willy,

Shut the hell up. Anyone can follow football. My idiot relatives watch college football and have zero idea what’s going on or what the player’s actual names are. It’s by far the sport that draws the most casual fans who barely know what’s going on. I mean their idea of cheering is, GET HIM!!! When the running back is running with the ball. They have no idea what a 4-3 defense is, they have no idea what a cover 2 is. I like both sports but to say football is the thinking man’s sport is insane. By far baseball fans have a higher IQ of their sport. Hockey and basketball fans have higher IQ’s about their sports as well than the average football fan.

And way to be a stereotype about Atlanta fans not showing up for the sporting events.

The Grinch

March 10th, 2010
12:21 am

Scottbravesfan, I like a lot of sports and I agree there are a lot of stupid football fans. But to say it’s a simple sport is a simple thing to say. There are fewer men qualified to be NFL head coaches than there are US military generals. You want to tell me Bobby Cox could step in and win even one NFL game? I’ll bet Mike Smith can step in and fill out a lineup card.

ALL sports are complex if you break them down far enough. Football has more action going on and thus appeals to people with shorter attention spans. It doesn’t mean they all (fans) know what’s actually happening, nor does it mean that it’s a stupid game. Your argument is akin to saying NASCAR is just a bunch of morons driving in a circle, or Hockey is just a bunch of thugs beating the crap out of each other. That’s exactly what either looks like to people who aren’t interested. But that doesn’t make it a realistic observation.

You don’t like it? Don’t watch it. But please don’t make blanket statements about the “ignorance” of people who do.

Willy

March 10th, 2010
12:43 am

SCOTTBRAVESFAN, yours is just the argument I almost made about baseball fans, but decided not to take up too much space. I know a guy who’s watched the Braves for 20 years, but still gets mad if they bunt. There are stupid fans in all sports, really bad dumb. Undoubtedly. But baseball is not intricate, football very much is.

As for your comment about the typical ATL fan, it’s baseball only that I boycott. If you’re as smart as your average baseball fan, you would the know why. Baseball has no respect for itself in any way. I don’t pay them for that, and won’t.

nick

March 10th, 2010
1:46 am

i say we sign heyward to a 20 year, $400 million contract

Conyers Braves Fan

March 10th, 2010
3:12 am

Too much media hype equals too much pressure on a player who has never had a regular
season at bat against major league pitching. Chipper`s comments and opinions always
give a writer something to run with but maybe they could get his thoughts about other
players and issues.

sansho1

March 10th, 2010
4:12 am

OK, Heyward has now been written up by the NYT, Gammons, and everybody else. Yes, he looks good. Yes, it’s exciting. Time to just let the kid play.

wjones

March 10th, 2010
5:48 am

Some folks are never satisfied. People are always posting about how only the Yankees and Red Sox are covered by ESPN and the national guys. Now we get Heyward stories all across the board and people are complaining. You just can’t please people, I guess.

bigboi

March 10th, 2010
6:16 am

i agree with wjones, we finally get national coverage and you people still complain. Just what would it take to make you happy?

farmerjoe

March 10th, 2010
7:04 am

Boy will Chippy be surprised when everyone wants Heyward to bat third. Chippy’s EGO wouldn’t allow that though.

Jesse Stone

March 10th, 2010
7:24 am

Has Scott Boras gotten his claws into Heyward yet?

ATLFan

March 10th, 2010
7:28 am

farmerjoe, Bobby will leave Chippy is the 3rd spot even if he breaks the MLB record for inning-ending double plays. Can’t disrespect Hoss …

papafoxx

March 10th, 2010
7:29 am

We’ll need somebody to bat in Chippers spot since he’ll be out half then year with some kind of injury. He’s already missed some spring games with a sore thumb.

Scott B

March 10th, 2010
7:31 am

Heyward needs to break camp with the team and be the opening day starting right fielder. He is THE TRUTH! Wren and Bobby need to heed Chipper’s advice.

Doc

March 10th, 2010
7:32 am

What’s best for the Braves long-term is to bring up Heyward after a couple of weeks.

Therefore, SHUT UP CHIPPER AND STOP TRYING TO AGGRAVATE THE SITUATION!

JJ

March 10th, 2010
7:46 am

Doc,

Why the hell should Chipper care what’s best for the Braves longterm? He’s only going to be here for a year or two more. Chipper knows having a bat like Jason’s in the lineup for an additional 9-10 games can potentially make a big differnece in making the playoffs or not.

Ross

March 10th, 2010
7:55 am

To scottbravesfan:

I have little quote for you on the regards of which is the thinking mans sport. In regards to baseball I will quote Bull Durham, “you hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball.” Baseball is not exactly rocket science. Football takes alot more skill and thinking than baseball every could. Your thoughts about hockey IQ is probably correct, but basketball is an even bigger joke than baseball.

North Fla Braves fan

March 10th, 2010
7:55 am

Send him down for a few weeks…think long term since Boras has his claws in Heyward all ready

papafoxx

March 10th, 2010
8:06 am

I say get rid of anyone who has Boras for a agent

who cares

March 10th, 2010
8:13 am

there has got to be something else to talk about than heyward every single day!

sansho1

March 10th, 2010
8:16 am

I don’t care what ESPN covers. I’m more concerned with the kid’s ability to concentrate on baseball with as few distractions as possible. To his credit, he doesn’t seem the type to let it go to his head.

Jesse Stone

March 10th, 2010
8:19 am

Ross,
And in football, there are set plays. Baseball is a reactionary game. You can “out-athlete” teams in football and win. You can’t do that in baseball.

fieldofdreams

March 10th, 2010
8:21 am

If the Braves are in first or within striking distance he plays in Gwinnett until June. If we start to slide then we add him to the roster. Although we want J-Hey wearing a Tomahawk for the long haul, let’s not forget that it’s going to cost a fortune to keep him.

Jesse Stone

March 10th, 2010
8:21 am

Football players have a week to prepare for games and they still miss assignments.

Jesse Stone

March 10th, 2010
8:22 am

field of dreams- I think he will start with the big club. He will get a long term deal done if he’s worth it.

Yankee

March 10th, 2010
8:23 am

the braves will send him down to AAA and bring him up when they dont have a chance. Play the kid he is better than anybody else they have i would hit him 3,4,or 5 the gut will have 30 plus HRAND 90 PLUS rbi’s what can u loss backdoor bobby

Paul W.

March 10th, 2010
8:23 am

He is a great player, but giving up a year for 2 weeks is thinking with your heart, not your head-

Jesse Stone

March 10th, 2010
8:27 am

Giving up the year is a moot point. He will be signed to a long term deal before we get to that.

Brave from the past

March 10th, 2010
8:51 am

The Braves gave up on the season in December when they were too cheap to address the positions they needed to fill. Chipper has not been happy that the club will not bring in the players to contend. The Braves will finish 3rd if they have a good injury free season with the roster they have! Heyward is a great prospect, but he is that just a prospect at this point.

Mike Jay

March 10th, 2010
8:55 am

Jesse, Is right. No way we do not ink him long term before he eligible for FA. And no Boras does not have his claws in him.

As far as pressureing the kid… Everything I have heard says that this ‘kid’ has the mental makeup of a 15 year vet. He is a once a generation type talent and is universally thought of as the next big thing. You can not stop the hype train so you all might as well hop on board and enjoy the ride.

elainer7

March 10th, 2010
9:09 am

Who cares what Chipper says? And, already missing games with a sore thumb??? Here we go again!

Yankee

March 10th, 2010
9:33 am

boris will get him soon and break Atlanta weak budget and he will be a yankee hes only 20

Colin

March 10th, 2010
9:37 am

The Braves should already be thinking of a long-term deal for Heyward, because the sooner they get it done, the more it saves them in the long run. Look at the deal TB gave Longoria when he’d only been in the majors for about two weeks: 6 years, $17.5M. Now look at what happens when you wait until your stud has been in the majors for two years: Justin Upton – 6 years, $51M. The more he proves himself at the ML level, the more he’s worth.

Look, they know this kid is going to perform…the same way the Rays knew Longoria would perform, the same way the Braves knew McCan would be worth his contract. Bring him up right away, and offer him a deal similar to McCann’s about a month or two into the season.

Ted

March 10th, 2010
9:42 am

Chipper does not care about the 2016 Braves because Chipper will not be a member of the 2016 Braves. He only cares about the 2010 Braves, which is fine.

But fans of the 2010 Braves will likely be fans of the 2016 Braves – and they will care whether Heyward is a Brave in 2016 or a newly signed FA of another team thanks to playing him from Day 1 in 2010.

April 20 is two weeks into the season. 12 games will have been played (if no rainouts). There will be 150 games remaining. Melky, Diaz and/or Hinske can handle 12 games.

I do not advocate keeping him down the first 10 weeks (unless he gets hurt in ST) to avoid Super 2 status. But 2 weeks? For an extra year guarantee? Sure. We can talk all we want about him signing a long-term deal. But where’s Prince Fielder’s deal? You think the Brewers don’t want that? And for every young “star” with a deal there’s another young “star” who is content to go year-to-year and be a FA as soon as possible.

2 weeks will not harm the 2010 Braves’ chances to win. But an entire year without Heyward in 2016 might doom that team’s chance.

wjones

March 10th, 2010
9:54 am

“elainer7

March 10th, 2010
9:09 am
Who cares what Chipper says? And, already missing games with a sore thumb??? Here we go again!”

So I’m guessing you would rather that he play hurt in ST, so he won’t be available when the regular season starts? What exactly is your point? You do understand that ST games don’t count against the Braves in the standings, right?

wjones

March 10th, 2010
9:56 am

I don’t follow the Rays at all, but could someone explain to me the Evan Longoria deal? People who want to hold Heyward back have been comparing his situation to Longoria’s. But here is what I don’t understand. Longoria started the year in the minors, and was called up shortly afterward, and a lot of people have been saying that was to delay his arb clock. But after he came up he was signed to a 6 year contract. So what was the point? Signing him up to a 6-year contract would bypass his arb period anyway, right? Am I missing something?

daren in Utah

March 10th, 2010
10:39 am

I have always found baseball to be very cerebral. A 1-0 pitchers duel is the best. If I wanted mindless diamond shenanigans, I’d watch softball.

I was elated last night when the announcers called out Heyward’s footwork/positioning in RF on a fly ball with Rollins on first (catching the ball with his momentum pointing toward the target of the throw – a fundamental not often seen even in the Majors). Little things like that win ball games.

atlwolf

March 10th, 2010
11:21 am

I have a feeling all you crybabies who want Heyward to stay in AAA until 4/20 are going to be disappointed.

Bill S.

March 10th, 2010
1:35 pm

Heyward may or may not be ready….You can’t be sure after just 6 games of spring training…Look who he is batting against!!!!! Most of them won’t even be in the majors when the season starts!!!! I’m not saying he shouldn’t start the year in the Braves lineup…If he is one of the best 25; he should be in the lineup….Be assured, someone will be saying I told you so!! GO BRAVES!!!!!!

Harv

March 10th, 2010
2:57 pm

Haywood will be playing for the mets in 4 years

B-rad

March 10th, 2010
7:13 pm

I know it sounds simple enough to keep Heyward in Triple A for an extra two weeks and get a guaranteed year in 2016. However, we also have to think about the potential backfire of such actions. Yes, he is only 20 and still a “prospect” but if it is clear to everyone that he is one of the top 25 players, and has earned the opening day spot, then what happens to Heywards morale or feelings towards the team from there on out. Would that make him less loving of the team and ready to get out as soon as possible thus making a long term deal impossible? Or would this be detriemental to his work ethic? As of now he is busting his butt and outworking others to prove he is worthy of an opening day spot. If not given to him then he may think, “well whats the point in all this hard work if the organization’s mind was made up even before spring training began”. Personally I think he should be in right field for opening day if he continues to prove he deserves it, and let the rest sort itself out later. Heck, it may even improve our chances to resign him long term if we were the ones that gave him his first shot at the bigs and weren’t trying to hinder his development, but rather needed him and counted on him to get us to the playoffs.

Just some things to think about.

Run away

March 12th, 2010
5:05 pm

The Braves haven’t had a player with the kind of athleticism and talent come through the organization since Andruw Jones and I think Heyward at this age is slightly better than when Andruw was this age. I don’t care if he is a Boras client, he should be here long term no matter what the cost. I personally would sign him to a long term deal even if that meaning losing guys like Hanson and/or Jurrjens. Regarding Jurrjens though, since he’s another Boras client, when it come time to pay both the guys big I wouldn’t be surprised to see Heyward get it and Jurrjens play somewhere else. If comes down to giving one of the guys a mega deal, you know Heyward will get it over Jurrjens. Heyward is the next face of the franchise.

Run away

March 12th, 2010
5:08 pm

haven’t had a player with Heyward’s kind of athleticism and talent

Joey P

March 16th, 2010
12:09 am

Heyward is ready to be on the opening day roster. All you guys who say wait must not want to see the Braves win a championship. SO SHUTTUP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Henry Co.

March 17th, 2010
3:33 am

I played against Heyward in high school and, though high school and pro ball are two completely different skill levels, I thought he could’ve been in the pros then. The guys ready to play. My rookie of the year pick (if he can stay off the DL)

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