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What kind of damage can Jason Heyward do as a 20-year-old rookie?

Mar 26, 2010, 11:45 AM EDT

Now that Jason Heyward has officially made the Braves it’s time to start thinking about what kind of rookie season he’s capable of putting together at age 20.
Here are his projections from a few prominent sources:

                           AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS
Baseball Prospectus       .274    .345    .461    .806
Rotoworld Draft Guide     .267    .343    .440    .783
Baseball Think Factory    .275    .341    .429    .770

Combining those projections has Heyward hitting .272 with a .343 on-base percentage and .443 slugging percentage, which is good for a .786 OPS that would put him about five percent above average overall. While those numbers may not match the incredible hype and expectations, throughout the entire history of baseball a grand total of just 29 players have qualified for the batting title with an above-average OPS as 20-year-olds.
The only 20-year-olds with an above-average OPS in the past 30 years are Roberto Alomar in 1988, Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990, Alex Rodriguez in 1996, and Adrian Beltre in 1999. That’s two sure-fire Hall of Famers, one likely Hall of Famer, and a former MVP runner-up with 250 homers through age 30. And no 20-year-old has done it since 1999. In other words, if Heyward has a .786 OPS this season Braves fans should be thrilled.
In fact, Heyward merely staying in the majors and playing regularly would put him in strong company, as only 19 outfielders have ever logged 500 plate appearances at age 20. Here’s the list: Griffey, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Cesar Cedeno, Tony Conigliaro, Vada Pinson, Rick Manning, Buddy Bell, Claudell Washington, Sherry Magee.
Put it this way: Throw those names in a hat and draw one at random. You’ll likely end up with a Hall of Famer.

  1. JBerardi - Mar 26, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Prediction: Heyward is the most popular team-killing massive overdraft of the fantasy season.

  2. Joey B - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    I picked him on waivers. I’m hoping he hits three HRs in the first week, and someone in my league thinks he’ll hit 40. Always think in terms of re-sale value.

  3. Steve F - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Justin Upton posted an OPS of .816 in 417 PA during his age 20 season (2008)

  4. Big Lar - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    I traded for him in 2009 for K. Green of the Cards. His resale value this year should be huge.

  5. Jason B - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    In my keeper league I have him protected and can get him with my last pick in the draft. I expect .275 60runs 15Hr 60RBI and double digit stolen bases.

  6. Rob - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    I always scoff at people who draft rookies and expect much…. and I think the above stats level sets the probable “best outcome” of this year…. that said, I’ve seen Heyward play in person & he is impressive. He mainly tries to line the ball back up the middle (or should I say rocket the ball up the middle) while not swinging at balls out of the strike zone & taking his walks (pitchers are bound to fear his massive presence & dish up the walks)…. and he doesn’t strike out often. There are many in MLB who’ve played 5-10 years+ who don’t do any of these things. His homers will come, though, since the guy’s 6’4″ 245 lbs. All muscle, btw…. so, perhaps the exception to the roto rule???

  7. Joey B - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    “He mainly tries to line the ball back up the middle (or should I say rocket the ball up the middle) while not swinging at balls out of the strike zone & taking his walks (pitchers are bound to fear his massive presence & dish up the walks)…. and he doesn’t strike out often. There are many in MLB who’ve played 5-10 years+ who don’t do any of these things.”
    My league counts walks and strikeouts, so a good ratio goes a long way. I agree with the second comment as well. It’s amazing how many players have no handle on the strike zone.

  8. Ed Q - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    i protected him for a $1 in my league i get to enjoy his stats for the next 2 years…. Giddy up!!!!

  9. PaulyOH - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    I have Heyward protected in my NL-only minors, so I’m sitting pretty. Was talking to a friend who did a 10-team NL-only keeper league auction last week. I told him beforehand to try to get Heyward. He tried, but he said the bidding got too high. Heyward’s price? $31.

  10. Morrison Medics - Mar 26, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    If participate in a league in which Heyward went for $31, please give me a call. I would be happy to take your money. I find $31 EXTREMELY hard to believe!

  11. Ed Q - Mar 27, 2010 at 6:52 AM

    That’s insane $31 rookie who will hit .275 15hr

  12. derek - Mar 27, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    To give you a feel of an auction and how much that person overpaid,, He went for $9 in my draft and that’s only because the guy had extra money to spend on two players and we were bidding him up.

  13. Idiot Police - Mar 27, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    The $31 is a keeper league draft. As Gleeman states in the article, we have every reason to believe he’ll be Griffey-esque for a loooong time. So $31 is a steal.
    It’s a keeper league. No one cares about your 1-year league.

  14. james - Mar 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    not only is it a keeper league. Its an NL only keeper league. You guys left out the 2 most important details to that $31 price. Thats not too ridiculous considering both of those things, but it may have been slightly ridiculous considering the potential keepers you could have gotten with that same amount of money that are already great proven players that are still relatively young.

  15. DOCTOR HARDBALL - Mar 30, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    So what HANK do we have here? Aaron? Thompson, Sauer, Greenberg, Bauer, Hill, Kerchief???

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