Scouting is more art than science. That much, we know. If it weren’t, there’d be a whole lot more agreement on a whole lot more players, right?
And to even take it a step further, two scouts could very easily see the exact same thing, yet draw two completely different conclusions.
It is with that preamble that I share with you the following dissent from scouting community regarding both 1) the degree of swing changes Cubs’ right fielder Jason Heyward has made this winter and 2) the expected success of those changes.
I know, not exactly what you wanted to hear.
At ESPN Chicago, Jesse Rogers tackles the ongoing Heyward 2.0 project, discussing the apparent offseason swing changes with various scouts. And, as I said, not everyone seems to think his efforts are ready to bear fruit.
“He has an arm bar [straight arm] and he’s late,” one NL scout said to Rogers. “When you’re late, everything breaks down.”
Another added that it’s not a finished product, yet another suggested it can still be long and late at times, and so on, and so on. All in all, six scouts (out of seven) suggested that it doesn’t look different enough from last season. So, yikes. What’s the deal?
Well first of all, not everyone agrees that his swing looks the same. Joe Maddon, for one, adamantly believes Heyward’s swing is completely different. And this isn’t just Maddon supporting his player. He went as far as to tell ESPN that he was disappointed in a particular scout that didn’t see any meaningful differences, because they were so obvious to Maddon.
And I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but no one (especially not a group of AL and NL scouts) has seen more of Jason Heyward’s old and new swings than Maddon and his staff.
Not only that, it’s still early on in the Spring.
At FanRag sports, Heyward himself admitted that he’s able to execute his new swing better in batting practice than he has in the games … but that’s not necessarily damning or even unexpected. Spring Training is still Spring Training, even for someone who’s been working all offseason long. And I think that’s something we’re forgetting all too easily.
Heyward may have been working on a new swing all throughout the offseason, but he wasn’t facing competitive, live pitching until a few weeks ago. He still needs to get his timing back, and that is completely independent of his other struggles. And that’s not just blowing smoke. According to Rogers, each of the six scouts who didn’t see a difference in Heyward’s new swing did add that it isn’t time to panic just yet, for that very reason.
Is this the scouting consensus we would’ve all liked to see? No. Can we completely ignore the takes from these scouts just because we don’t like them? No.
Clearly the disagreement and pessimism isn’t a good thing, especially when there also have not been significant in-game results yet. But should we wholly adopt the position of six NL and AL scouts over that of the Cubs coaching staff and front office? Nah. Not yet, at least. Let’s give Heyward and the Cubs some time. We’re not even ONE GAME into the regular season yet. I’m willing to let him work it out.
[Brett: For what it’s worth, my #NotAScout take after watching each of his video-available at bats this Spring, as well as several in person that were not televised, is that the swing is clearly different. It’s not just a matter of the opening hand position being different, because those hands then retreat up and in before Heyward begins his swing. Instead, I see him staying more on his back foot as the swing begins, and then a weight transfer that is better aligned with the arrival of the pitch, which creates more authority in the contact, and also helps him elevate the ball more frequently. The swing is still unorthodox and long in ways that are jarring to our traditional sensibilities about what a good swing looks like … but it always was. You can see it in these 2012 highlights (that’s the swing the Cubs are hoping he can get back). The only difference I see is the bat speed looks a little quicker in 2012, which … well … hopefully we’re not looking at a permanent loss of bat speed situation. I still think we need more time, more video, and (eventually) a robust set of exit velocity/launch angle data before we come to any conclusions.]