Sep 11, 2009, 3:15 PM EDT
This afternoon Baseball America announced Jason Heyward as their minor league player of the year after the Braves farmhand and 2007 first-round pick batted .323/.408/.555 with 17 homers, 46 total extra-base hits, 11 steals, and a 51/51 K/BB ratio in 99 games between high Single-A and Double-A before finishing the year with a brief stint at Triple-A.
Those numbers are obviously great, but what makes them amazing is that Heyward turned 20 years old last month. He’s 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds with incredible physical tools and has hit .318/.391/.508 through 238 pro games, with plate discipline and strike-zone control that are extraordinary for such a young hitter.
He drew 30 walks while striking out just 21 times in 50 games between Double-A and Triple-A despite facing pitchers who were almost all at least 3-5 years his senior. Heyward is the clear-cut premier position player prospect in baseball and should give Stephen Strasburg a run for the top overall spot when various prospect rankings come out next spring.
Atlanta has a track record of aggressively promoting elite prospects, but during the past two decades only Andruw Jones in 1997 saw significant action with the Braves as a 20-year-old. Not coincidentally, Jones was Baseball America‘s minor league player of the year in both 1995 and 1996. Heyward seems likely to begin next season at Triple-A, but picking up where he left off could get him to Atlanta for good by the All-Star break.
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