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Braves think 20-year-old prospect Jason Heyward may be ready for majors

Feb 5, 2010, 1:50 PM EDT

Last month a Braves source told Craig that the team’s lack of interest in Johnny Damon was largely due to their confidence in stud outfield prospect Jason Heyward being ready for the majors at some point this season.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote more about that scenario today, reporting that “Braves officials have said Heyward will enter spring training with every opportunity to win the right field job” and adding that he’d “put money on Heyward being in right field for the Braves opening series.”
Here’s a quote about the Braves’ plans for Heyward from manager Bobby Cox:

He’s virtually skipping Triple-A if he makes the team. That doesn’t happen often. But in his case we just feel that he should, if he’s going to come to spring training, be given a crack at it.

O’Brien also passed along this interesting tidbit: During the past decade Rocco Baldelli is the only position player drafted out of high school to make an Opening Day roster and play at least 30 games in the majors with fewer than 200 at-bats above Single-A. Heyward has 173 at-bats above Single-A and was a 2007 first-round pick out of Henry County high school in Georgia, so Baldelli may soon have some company.
Heyward is only 20 years old, but he’s already 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, was named Minor League Player of the Year last season, and ranks as the No. 1 prospect in baseball on just about every prominent list. As for whether he’ll be better than Damon in 2010 … that remains to be seen, but Baseball Think Factory‘s fantastic projection system has Heyward hitting .275/.341/.429 this season compared to .272/.350/.436 for Damon.
Very similar production and Heyward is significantly better defensively, not to mention a whole lot cheaper and with much more upside. Incidentally, if Heyward can match that projected .770 OPS while playing regularly for the Braves it would be the third-best OPS by a 20-year-old outfielder in the past 40 years behind only Ken Griffey Jr. at .847 in 1990 and Justin Upton at .816 in 2008.

  1. Fast Eddy - Feb 5, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I wish the best for this young guy really. However before we put him in the hall, let me point out one thing. HE IS A PROSPECT! How many prospects came up and never did anything but make a lot of money. Look at Ankiel in St. Louis. How about our own Jay Bruce in Cinti? Nothing yet. There are a lot of others too. On the other hand, some less than great prospects came up and excelled. Joey Voto, Sir Albert and others. Lets get excited, but don’t count on too much.There is a long way from A ball to triple A. And, there is a chasm from triple A to the bigs. They may be doing him a disfavor by skipping AAA.

  2. Adam - Feb 5, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    No offense Fast Eddy, but couldn’t you say that about every player who is coming up from the minors? Gleeman’s not saying he’s a no-doubt-about-it prospect, he simply giving you a possible reason that the Braves might have taken a pass on Damon. Also, the Braves are not saying they are for sure going to start him in the outfield come Opening Day, they are saying he’s gonna get legit shot during Spring Training. Come on, read man.

  3. JBerardi - Feb 5, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    I hate the “he’s just a prospect” line, because it assumes that all prospects are created equal. They aren’t. Heyward is a beast monstrous; one of the very best offensive prospects in all of baseball. Obviously he’ll need to be evaluated in spring training, and it’s more likely than not that he’ll need a little more seasoning in the minors, but he absolutely deserves to get a real crack at the job.

  4. baby prams - Feb 22, 2010 at 5:13 AM

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