Frigatedoc, a pro player doesn’t get much better by continuing to face pitchers he can dominate. So Heyward would have gained little by spending more time in the minors. However, that probably would have been better than him being benched in the majors.
Age matters. A player who has nothing left to prove in the minors but are extremely young may not have made all the necessary adjustments to be great against major league pitching. Those types of players don’t have an already honed swing. They need the challenge of major league pitching in order to hone their swing completely. The only way a hitter gets better is to play games and get reps against higher levels of pitching until they can face the highest levels of pitching and keep honing.
I don’t know if it’s true that Heyward was “way more” hyped than Chipper. Maybe, considering there are more top 100 (or top 101) prospect lists now than when Chipper was a prospect. And there are lot more niche baseball media outlets that pay more attention to minor leaguers and prospects. Also it seems we have a better understanding of what makes a legit prospect and which amateur players are likely to be impact major leaguers. It’s hard to imagine if that were the case in the early 1990′s that Chipper would have been any less hyped than Heyward.
Chipper was a number one overall pick and dominated at every level. And he didn’t just dominate in the on-the-surface numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG). He was rather young for his levels and he posted solid numbers that indicate command of the strikezone, like BB/K. Plus he had the athleticism to play short for a vast majority of his early pro career and stole a lot of bases. He would have been hyped, had their been a Baseball Prospectus prospect list, had there been a Keith Law and a Kevin Goldstein and a Jonathan Mayo.
Heyward has plenty of time/room to improve and develop. No reason to think he can’t be anywhere from a productive player to a perennial All-star as long as he stays healthy. He’s been way ahead of the curve his entire career. Heyward was 20 his first full season and won’t be 23 until August this year.
For comparison of ages for first full season, Chipper was 23 as a rookie. David Wright was 22. So was Joe Mauer. Barry Bonds got his start at 21, but didn’t start really hitting until 25. Jeter was 22. Manny Ramirez hit .269 in a half season at 22.
You’re not going to find many guys who’ve made it the bigs at Heyward’s age. Some bumps are to be expected, especially if he’s fighting injury. Andruw Jones is one of the few I remember.
Some may argue that getting to the bigs at his age is sometimes more of an opportunity thing in being in the right place at the right time in having a bat that the Braves really needed since our outfield at the time wasn’t really much to write home about. I’m not taking anything away from Heyward, I’m just saying that sometimes that age and relative skill are important but most of all, the need at the big club could play a big part in why Heyward was promoted through the system so quickly.
You’ll hear an analyst or two on MLB Network say that some of these kids coming up today just haven’t had enough time to learn how to be a professional ball player in the sense of the fundamentals. Maybe true in some cases but I think Heyward’s big knock so far is staying healthy. It certainly seemed to me from last year that he needed to learn what he can and cannot play through. The knowledge of knowing if you are banged-up versus something that could turn serious. Every one of these guys wanna play everyday and as “I think” we saw with Heyward, he wanted to get out there an contribute so badly that he feared telling anyone about an injury. You gotta learn that and as a kid of 20-21 years, you still think you are invincible.
Once again, Fredi does not cease to amaze (i.e., frustrate) me with his lineup construction. Freeman is hitting .231/.231/.269 with 0 BB/9 K on the year, while Heyward is hitting .316/.381/.632 with 2 BB/5 K — and FREEMAN is hitting third, while HEYWARD is hitting SEVENTH?!?!!? Thanks, Fredi.