The top prospect? Baseball America says he’s a Brave

Baseball America, which covers the minor leagues like Willie Mays used to cover center field in the Polo Grounds, has already seen its top four preseason prospects reach the majors and make impacts. No. 1 was Matt Wieters, the Baltimore catcher from Georgia Tech. No. 2 was David Price, the Tampa Bay pitcher. No. 3 was Colby Rasmus, the St. Louis outfielder. No. 4 was Tommy Hanson, of whom you’ve heard.

So now, this being midseason, BA has a new No. 1 prospect (link requires registration), and you’ve heard of him, too. He’s Jason Heyward, who just moved from Myrtle Beach, the Braves’ highest Class A affiliate, to Mississippi, and the pride of McDonough, Ga., is tearing it up in Class AA. Writes Baseball America: “A promotion to Double-A Mississippi made it possible that Heyward could jump to the majors in 2009, just two years after being drafted.”

Last week Buster Olney of ESPN.com’s Insiders raised the same issue: Could Heyward, who doesn’t turn 20 until Aug. 9, be summoned to Atlanta way ahead of schedule? (Previous projections had him reaching the majors in the summer of 2010 and taking over in right field in 2011.) As Olney wrote (requires registration):

“Jason Heyward has been crushing the ball since being promoted to Double-A, hitting .417 with eight extra-base hits in his first 10 games, and — here’s something pretty impressive — four walks and two strikeouts. The Braves’ intention is to be as patient as possible with Heyward, who does not turn 20 until Aug. 9, and they do not want to put him in a situation in which he’s under too much pressure. But if the Braves are contending in late August and they still have a need for production from an outfielder, and Heyward continues to dominate in Double-A, you do wonder if he might get some consideration. That bridge of conversation, however, is a long way off.”

Heyward’s updated stats in Class AA: He’s hitting .378 with six doubles, two triples and a home run. He has stuck out twice in 45 at-bats. His on-base percentage is .463. His slugging percentage is .677. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) is an off-the-charts 1.130.

Last week Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for MLB.com, interviewed Heyward before the Futures Game in St. Louis — Heyward had a single therein — and quoted him as saying: “Obviously, it’s going to be whenever the Braves want me to go. I just have to make sure that I’m prepared to help them out whenever they make that call.”

Bowman on the Braves’ presumed timetable: “While the Braves aren’t publicly revealing a specific plan for Heyward, there’s a belief that he’ll complete this season with Mississippi and then spend the first half of the 2010 season with Triple-A Gwinnett. If he continues on his current path, by this time next year, there’s a good chance he’ll find himself playing in the Atlanta outfield.”

Should the Braves promote Jason Heyward to Atlanta this season?

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MLB.com offers this breakdown on Heyward’s Top 50 Prospects page: “Heyward has a big, strong and athletic frame and an excellent left-handed swing with plus power potential. An advanced approach at the plate is highlighted by excellent patience. He runs well, especially for his size, and is an excellent baserunner. A strong outfielder with an above-average arm, he can play well in right. His work ethic and attitude are huge advantages.”

Any antecedents? MLB.com mentions two: “[Heyward is an] All-Star-caliber right fielder in the Dave Parker mold. He’s also drawn comparisons to Willie McCovey.”

Dave Parker was the 1978 National League MVP. Willie McCovey was the 1969 NL MVP. Either of those will do nicely.

Oh, and Freddie Freeman, the first baseman who’s also playing for the Mississippi Braves? He’s No. 11 on Baseball America’s list.

73 comments Add your comment

Bama Aaron

July 20th, 2009
2:39 pm

Would love to see Heyward in Atl sooner rather than later, but early next season would be alright. If he has any power at all I hope Freddie Freeman gets the september call up to play some 1st base this season.

The_Superhoo (Montana by way of Virginia)

July 20th, 2009
2:42 pm

Woo! Way to go Heyward! Well earned!

Can’t wait to see him out in right next summer!

James

July 20th, 2009
2:50 pm

No we know why Francour was traded.

beki

July 20th, 2009
2:51 pm

As much as I like to see Heyward now; I’d much prefer him to get more seasoning and not fall into the “Francoeur syndrome ” ( I’m too hot to listen to a hitting instructor”).

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
2:53 pm

And remember, Heyward is only two years out of high school. That really would be rushing.

Sage of Blueland

July 20th, 2009
2:54 pm

Start him NOW before all the sheep buy season tickets to Blueland.

They have a 5-year plan, you know.

Phil

July 20th, 2009
2:58 pm

Bring him on up and let Moron Cox and TP ruin him too.

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
2:59 pm

Yes, Cox has surely ruined Tommy Hanson, hasn’t he?

Richard Gray

July 20th, 2009
3:06 pm

Heyward needs to remain in the minor leagues the rest of this year and possibly half of next year. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see him in a Braves uniform sooner than later but bringing him up any time soon would be a tremendous mistake. He’s young and is just now adjusting to AA ball. Obviously I do not play professional baseball but I think we all know it is completely different game once you get to the majors. Putting pressure on him to hit and play defense late this year or even early next year could kill his confidence and delay his development. Just look at what’s happened with Jordan Schaffer. I know he wasn’t 100% healthy but striking out as much as he did in the majors certainly didn’t do him any favors. Atlanta needs to play it safe with Heyward and give him time to develop.

Nativebird

July 20th, 2009
3:06 pm

If we make the playoffs? bring him up as bench support, if Not (which is likely), No, keep him on the farm developing, and shoot for early to mid 2010. the last thing we want to do is “Schafer-ite” him like Wren did to Jordan by annointing a kid as the second coming and bringing him up too early.

coach joe

July 20th, 2009
3:06 pm

thanks for the story. The braves futute looks bright. We go the pitching and the young hitters are on their way.

Homer

July 20th, 2009
3:09 pm

FIRE BRADLEY!!!

GT

July 20th, 2009
3:10 pm

I went to a Durham Bulls game the other day while on business in the area. Charlotte (Pittsburgh) was playing Durham (Tampa Bay). The roster was filled up with old guys that had played in other places last year,few organization players that had come up through the systems. When people lay it on the Braves front office that have brought so much with so little to this town they need to appreciate the past and the future this organization has brought them. This organization desires and has earned all the slack we can give them. The way they are starting to play they won’t need the charity much longer. This is a good team this year.

McPoyle

July 20th, 2009
3:16 pm

What are Freeman’s numers like this year?

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
3:20 pm

Freeman hit .302 at Myrtle Beach and is hitting .294 at Mississippi. Here’s his profile on MLB.com.

Dobearsbare

July 20th, 2009
3:31 pm

The tempting thought is to say rushing him would put the same kind of pressure on Heyward that was on Francoeur. There is one key difference: Francoeur was probably the most-covered high school athlete in state history. Which heightened fan interest in him. Meanwhile, his less-heralded teammate, Brain McCann, arrived in the major leagues faster and has had little trouble dealing with being a hometown star. Who knows which way Heyward will go? Personally, I don’t get the impression he’s feeling much pressure.

Escobar Rocks

July 20th, 2009
3:35 pm

How does Heyward compare to Justin Upton at the same age.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

July 20th, 2009
3:35 pm

I’m tempted to say keep him in the system to get a little more experience under his belt — we don’t want him to become the Francoeur of 2010. But, on the other hand, I think Frenchy would’ve met this fate regardless. To bring up a point you made in an earlier blog, MB, Frenchy plays with a football mentality so it most likely would’ve come to this either way.

Paula

July 20th, 2009
3:41 pm

Wait, I thought Furman Bisher said the Braves farm system had dried up?

TurnThePage

July 20th, 2009
3:46 pm

Mr. Bradley, can you answer a question for me? What do the Braves think of Matt Young? It would seem from his numbers that he is a leadoff presence. The Braves seem to be in need of one.

Steven L.

July 20th, 2009
3:51 pm

Mark,

Unrelated but lemme ask you something: as good as I am guessing you think Bobby is, don’t you get frustrated with his (mis)management of the bullpen? Last night was perfect example. Right before a 4 game series with the Giants that’s likely to involve 4 straight close games, we use our two best relievers with a 6 run lead. After the criminal overuse of Peter Moylan in 2007 you’d think he’d learn…

Piedmont Blues (ex-BFIR)

July 20th, 2009
3:52 pm

Dobearsbare,

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when Francoeur was in high school, but Heyward has been hyped like crazy since the Braves drafted him. He seems to have handled the attention without a hitch. And because (unlike Frenchy) Heyward has always been a patient hitter, he may adjust to the majors better than you’d imagine.

Yeah, comparing him to one of the Uptons might be the way to go.

mudcat

July 20th, 2009
4:07 pm

We’ve seen what happens to these kids when they come up too early-too often they fail and lose their confidence. Let Heyward play a few games in Atlanta this September and after at least a half a season at Gwinnett next year, if he’s still hitting like he is now, bring him up for a looksie. The Braves have a woeful outfield when it comes to run production and that’s one area that they really need to improve as well as at 1B. I like Kotchman but we need more power numbers at that position. Freeman? Maybe, but not for awhile. We build for the future. Do NOT trade any more of our better prospects for a quick fix.

TurnThePage

July 20th, 2009
4:10 pm

I say call up Jason Heyward in September. No need to rush him. As has been pointed out on another blog, Atlanta is 4 1/2 games out of the wild card race. Why try to bring him up any sooner? Freddie Freeman, Cody Johnson, Jordan Schafer and Matt Young should be called up then as well. Let them play when they are called up with no pressure. Then, you can see if they are ready to stick when Spring Training rolls around. At the very least, you could get an idea in mind about where players can play, their talent level against major league lineups and map out what you need to do for next season. Pitching will be a strong point for next year no matter what. Atlanta just needs to reload its minor league system beginning now even with premium players like Heyward and Freeman on the horizon. Those are two players that I would bank on being cornerstones for the future. Hanson is your ace for the future.

Michael in Brooklyn

July 20th, 2009
4:25 pm

Love it! Love! It! A minor worry, though is the total lefthandedness of our future team. Taking a hypothetical look at 2011, we have:

C McCann, bats L
1B Freeman, bats L
2B Prado, bats R
SS Escobar, bats R
3B Chipper (mit cane), bats S
LF McLouth, bats L
CF Schafer, bats L
RF Heyward, bats L

And Cody Johnson, of the 24 HRs through July 19 in a notorious pitchers park in Myrtle Beach, is a lefty as well.

That’s a fine looking lineup, but does this organizational quirk give anyone else pause?

BrandonC

July 20th, 2009
4:27 pm

Been waiting to see this kid since he was drafted, but I think it will be next summer. They will do what they did with Hanson this year.

Shadetree

July 20th, 2009
4:34 pm

Our best trade piece is Lowe. I wouldn’t want to get rid of any other pitcher. Everybody says KK should go but he is as good as any we have.

Huddy, KK, Jair, Vasquez and Rooster. ASounds like a plan to me.

TurnThePage

July 20th, 2009
4:37 pm

Michael in Brooklyn, that is a great point about left handed hitters. What do you say Atlanta gets a right handed hitter in the draft, free agency or a deal? Would someone please explain to me why it seems that it is tougher for a left handed hitter to hit a left handed pitcher than it is for a right handed hitter to hit a right handed pitcher?

bravefalconhawk

July 20th, 2009
4:42 pm

michael in brooklyn…McCann leading off??

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
4:51 pm

Cox does love to use his relievers. That said, last night surprised me.

Smart Jay

July 20th, 2009
4:55 pm

Page – much discussed, but it likely has to do with the fact that you just see so many fewer lefties, from the time a kid starts playing baseball. Righties face so many righties thir entire life, it just isn’t as unusual for them. The eye is trained to see the ball depart from some similar angle for all RH pitchers, so you just don’t have as much adjustment to do…

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
4:56 pm

One thing Heyward doesn’t do: He doesn’t strike out. He has struck out 119 times in 201 games as a professional. Justin Upton struck out 201 times in 231 minor-league games.

Smart Jay

July 20th, 2009
4:57 pm

Mark – did someone ask Cox about that bullpen use last night? When I saw RS in there, I had to ask myself – “Self, do we have an off-day tomorrow?”

Someone needs to knock Bobby on the head.

arif11

July 20th, 2009
4:57 pm

Didn’t one esteemed journalist (Mr. Bisher, cough cough) say our farm system has dried up?

Mark, seriously, you need to censor the stuff that comes out of the AJC Blogs.

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
5:03 pm

I wasn’t at the game last night, Smart Jay. I don’t know what the explanation was. Except — and I’m guessing — maybe he wanted to use Soriano because he hadn’t pitched since Thursday night and Cox was trying to keep him sharp.

It’s a tough line to tread: You don’t want to use your closer every day, but you don’t want him to go five days without appearing.

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
5:07 pm

About Matt Young: He’s small — 5-8 — and doesn’t hit for power. He hasn’t risen above Class AA in five seasons with the Braves, and he’ll turn 27 in October. He’s not one of their top prospects, I wouldn’t say. (And he’s hitting under .300 at Mississippi.)

Jeremiah

July 20th, 2009
5:21 pm

Great Blog Mr. Bradley….Go Braves! I’m liking our chances this year and I really like our future with these prospects! Hanson, Heyward, Freeman, Schaefer, hopefully all of these guys make future impacts to the team! And I am a BC fan all the way…I will die defending the man, and while I may not understand the motive behind all of his moves, I always trust his judgement and intentions…Go Braves in 09′ Playoffs!

Jeremiah

July 20th, 2009
5:22 pm

BTW, In reference to above comments, I do realize Hanson has already made an impact! Best of luck to his and all of our prospect’s futures!

KC

July 20th, 2009
5:38 pm

I don’t know how Heyward can only be 2 years out of high school… because this is his 3rd pro season.

Bravo

July 20th, 2009
5:54 pm

I’m going to say it again, we need to look at the possiblity of trading Lowe to the Angels in return for Brandon Wood and Will Smith (AA-minors). If we could swing that trade, we need to look at Ian Snell in Pittsburgh with the option of moving him to the 5th starter hole until Hudson is back and ready to take a spot in the rotation. In any case, we should consider some low level prospects of maybe Marek or Heath for Snell. Pitts wanting to move him and probably won’t take much more than that to persuade them. Wood could then be insurance at 3rd and could be a power option at first or LF. He’s got good power and a high ceiling. Other than that, you might want to entertain offers for Johnson and JoJo and if the price is right, put the trigger and get some prospects in return. I know, your all going to throw a fit about trading Lowe, but seriously, he’s not a 15 mil a year pitcher and you don’t want the Braves to have to pass on other talent (better talent) cause their paying Lowe so much. Move him now, this year while there’s so many teams looking for pitching and not much out there.

Hawk01

July 20th, 2009
6:06 pm

I would not object to Heyward coming up. If he is the talent the Braves believe he is, then he should be promoted. Furcal, and Adruw Jones came from Single A Macon. There are major talents that skipped the minor leagues altogether. Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, Bob Hoerner,Catfish Hunter……………Indeed they are all Hall of Famers. At least Heyward has minor league experience, He can play First base also and that will take care of weak hitting Kotchman.

Arkansas Transplant

July 20th, 2009
6:08 pm

Bravo, that’s a great plan!! That Brandon Wood is a ball player and I’d take a rotation of JJ, Vazquez, Hanson, KK and Snell/Hudson any day. Snell is tearing it up in the minors. Those trades would definitely give the Braves plenty of options now and in the future.

J

July 20th, 2009
6:09 pm

I’m with you BRAVO!!!

Bravo

July 20th, 2009
6:10 pm

Thanks for the support, but the moves only make sense.

Mike

July 20th, 2009
6:11 pm

You know Wood would be ready to take over for Chipper once he’s moved off of 3rd. Don’t know much about Will Smith, I see he’s a GA native. High strikeout pitcher.

Bravo

July 20th, 2009
6:13 pm

I’m telling you, these trades would allow the Braves many options on the field and in the rotation next year.

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2009
6:21 pm

Here’s how: Graduated in 2007, played minor-league baseball after being drafted and signing in 2007. And in 2008. And now in 2009. Three minor-league seasons, two years out of high school.

Skeezix

July 20th, 2009
6:42 pm

Heyward is the real deal, but I hope Braves management doesn’t rush him to the bigs too soon. Would I love to see him in ATL-you bet, but he needs time to mature. I say bring him to spring training next year and give him the opportunity to win a position on the team—but with a bias towards having him spend some time at AAA first. Oh yeah, and Wren better not trade him!

bravesfanforever

July 20th, 2009
6:46 pm

How did bringing up Francouer early lead to his collapse several years after he was already an established “star”?? Does anyone seriously think that if only we would have left him in the minors he would have 1) had a better outlook on hitting, 2) would have been more patient at the plate, and 3) listened to his hitting coach more?

If anything, maybe Schafer was brought up too early. But you know, bringing up a guy isn’t necessarily going to destroy his psyche. Does anyone really think that you can ruin a player’s career just because he didn’t get enough ABs in the minors? If a guy is having trouble then he gets sent back. If he can’t hack the pressure, then clearly this guy doesn’t belong in the majors. It’s just that simple. Sorry, but that’s the reality. The only really serious problem with bringing up any guy to early is that they don’t hit and thus don’t contribute to the club winning. So what’s the problem? Like Greg Maddux said, “Keep it simple.” Geez, so many of you think that these guys are really sensitive.

When the time is right for Heyward he will be brought up. Like I said, it’s all about making a contribution. If the Braves don’t think Heyward can contribute then he will remain in the minors. It’s just that simple.

Lookin’ good so far. I hope that we can see a glimpse of the man this year. Keep rippin’ Jason!

bravesfanforever

July 20th, 2009
6:51 pm

How does Heyward hit? Anyone have a scouting report? Is he a pull hitter or does he use all fields? I wonder if they were pitching him inside intentionally in that video because it appears that every ball was pulled to an extreme. Did you notice that everything was right on the 1B foul line?

I would have to think that with that anyone with that good of a batting average and anyone who is that heralded has to be a guy who uses all fields. But maybe not. Hard to say until I hear otherwise.