After a largely disappointing first season in Chicago, Jason Heyward bought a house out in Arizona near the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa, and hit the cages just a couple weeks after winning the World Series.
The move was a tremendous show of dedication and work ethic (both of which I’d argue Heyward displays more than almost anyone in the game), even if it didn’t entirely pay off at the plate in 2017.
Well, despite another fairly disappointing season in the books, Heyward is right back out there in Arizona, working out late last night and on his swing bright and early this morning:
Unfortunately, that swing still looks a little hitchy to my untrained eye, but, I mean, I don’t know man. What can we say at this point? Clearly, he’s working on it.
I know it’s easy to feel pessimistic about any potential changes he can make over the winter after how hard he went after it last offseason, but working to improve is better than complacency, and, hey it’s not like it went completely without benefit last season:
2016: .230/.306/.325 (71 wRC+); .094 ISO
2017: .259/.326/.389 (88 wRC+); .130 ISO
The problem, of course, is that there were still many behind-scenes-issues:
2016: 46.2 GB%, 33.3 FB%, 14.4 IFFB%
2017: 47.4 GB%, 32.2 FB%, 18.3 IFFB%
Heyward hit more grounders, fewer fly balls, and popped up more easy ones on the infield than he has since 2011 (second highest mark in MLB last season, too). On top of that, his hard-hit rate decreased versus 2016 (though his soft-hit rate went down also).
With some luck, Heyward can fix that hitch in his swing and inch closer, once again, to a league average bat. Because, and I’m aware how many times I’ve said this, with his glove in right field and base-running skills, even a league average bat would make him a pretty darn valuable player – not one worth his contact, but pretty darn valuable nonetheless. And it’s not like those six solid offensive years before he came to the Cubs didn’t happen.
I’m rooting for him to get there, because he’s still set to be a Cub for a very long time.