Posts Tagged ‘Jason Heyward’

The Z-Meter: Your Votes are In!

oaklandchriscarterI recently asked readers to help fill in the last few slots on the Z-Meter, and you obliged. I carry 25 minor-leaguers on the meter at any given time, and keep track of their movements throughout the system, until they finally hit the majors. I kept nineteen names from last year, so I needed six more. Here are the results of your ballot-stuffing:

1. 18% Chris Carter, IF/OF, Athletics
2. 16% Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians
3. 13% Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
4. 12% Jennry Mejia, RHP, Mets
5. 12% Kentrail Davis, OF, Brewers
6. 6% Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers

And the rest:

4%: Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles; Eric Young, Jr., OF, Rockies
3%: Dustin Ackley, 1B, Mariners; Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins; Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox
1%: Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs; Michael Ynoa, RHP, Athletics; Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks; Ryan Kalish, OF, Red Sox

Eight other players received no votes, so let’s not call them out and embarrass them.

We’ll add them to the list of players I felt had potential to continue growing from last season:

AAA
Austin Jackson, Detroit
Justin Smoak, Oklahoma City Redhawks
Travis Wood, Louisville Bats

AA
Lars Anderson, Portland SeaDogs
Madison Bumgarner, Richmond Flying Squirrels
Carlos Santana, Akron Aeros
Andrew Locke, Corpus Christi Hooks
Kyle Drabek, Reading Phillies
Pedro Alvarez, Altoona Curve

A
Ian Gac, Bakersfield
Mike Moustakas, Wilmington
Che-Hsuan Lin, Salem Red Sox
Collin Cowgill, Visalia Rawhide
Tim Beckham, Bowling Green Hot Rods
Zeke Spruill, Rome Braves
Brad Brach, Ft. Wayne TinCaps
Jamie Owen, High Desert Mavericks
Stephen Strasburgh, Nats

It’s been suggested that I keep the non-roster spot for a college player we admire, like we did with Strasburg last season, but I’m starting to feel like that might make for a separate post each week, rather than an addendum to the Meter.

Thanks for voting!

Jason Heyward is a Whole Lot of Awesome

As you might have noticed, we’re typically a little slow to unfold from the winter-long hibernation here at Bus Leagues. This is our third spring, and the routine is almost always the same: finish the season strong, fade away to virtually nothing from October to February, start working out the kinks in March, and really start firing on all cylinders in April. Just like the players, we need a little bit of spring training to get ourselves back in the groove.

I bring this up because it is the best explanation for our ignorance to-date of Braves minor leaguer Jason Heyward. Heyward is Baseball America’s top-ranked preseason prospect, although you wouldn’t know it from the way we (and, in fairness, everyone else) wax poetic about Stephen Strasburg. Not that there’s anything wrong with Strasburg – it’s just that Heyward is pretty darn good too.

In fact, here are three good reasons to keep an eye out for Heyward this season (besides the fact that Baseball America – and pretty much the rest of the baseball world – has already proclaimed his excellence):

  • He Tweets – Not only does Heyward have a Twitter account, he’s active on it, taking time to answer questions from his 3,000+ followers.  That’s where I found out that he prefers oatmeal raisin cookies to chocolate chip (BLASPHEMER!) and grew up a Yankee fan (…).
  • He Has Already Drawn Favorable ComparisonsBobby Cox is 68 years old, 69 in May.  He’s been around baseball, and the Braves, for more than fifty years.  So while his statement that the sound of Heyward’s line drives is “kind of like ol’ Hank Aaron’s sound” might initially be taken as an off-the-cuff utterance of a grandfatherly old man, it also has to be considered as the wisdom of a guy who has seen a lot of good players in his day.  Oh, who am I kidding – it was a completely crazy thing to say.  All it does is make the public’s expectations of Heyward even more unreasonable.
  • He Destroys Stuff – Earlier this spring, Heyward’s bombs to right dented cars and smashed windshields in a parking lot used by Atlanta’s front office, requiring a net be put up for protection.  Once you get past the fact that these people continued to park there – maybe someone familiar with the Braves’ spring training facilities could shed some light on that, because I find it hard to believe that there was NOWHERE else to park safely – you realize how awesome it is: a 20-year-old kid consistently hitting the ball 450 feet.

So yeah, Heyward is good.  And truth be told, all of this got me thinking.  Two years ago, we had a contest and gave Jay Bruce (the consensus number one prospect at the time) a nickname.  Shouldn’t we do the same for Heyward?  (I know what you’re thinking – what about Matt Wieters?  Unfortunately, Wieters appears destined to go the way of the 1904 World Series – he loses out because the powers that be couldn’t get their crap together.)

I tossed the idea around Bus Leagues headquarters, where it was well received (not a surprise, really; giving people stupid nicknames is one of our raisons d’etre).  A few ideas were tossed around – Hank; the J-Hey Kid; at one point, Pookie was mentioned (I think Eric might’ve been drinking) – but nothing definite.  So what we can do is backburner this for the moment.  It’s only early March, no need to rush things.  If you, the reader, happens to think of one that works, leave a comment or email us.  Pay it forward.  And when we have a few, we’ll figure out some way to pick the best one.

But rest assured, Jason Heyward will be awesome.  And he will be awesomely nicknamed.  This is fact.

Jason Heyward Has Awesomeness Confirmed With Awards From Baseball America, USA Today

Two years ago, Bus Leagues began building its massive empire on the strength of Jay Bruce, the Cincinnati Reds farmhand who won Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award at the end of the 2007 season.  We spoke of Bruce in hushed tones until he was called up midway through the 2008 campaign, followed his early days in the majors with guarded interest, and performed a complicated set of Internet high-fives when someone mentioned this blog to him and he said he liked the nickname we gave him last year.

In short, Jay Bruce was our first man-crush.

Conversely, when Matt Wieters won the same award last year, Bus Leagues Headquarters was largely silent.  I remember thinking to myself, “Gee, I should write something about this,” but it never came to fruition, and while I tried to give Wieters a nice welcome to The Show by pointing out his Chuck Norris-like facts site, it just wasn’t the same.  We enjoy Wieters, we think he’s gonna be a great player for a long time, we just don’t get the same sense of awesome that we did about Bruce.

The question now is this: where will Jason Heyward fit into the equation?

Heyward, the top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system, was named the Minor League Player of the Year this week by both Baseball America and USA Today (neither Bruce nor Wieters won the latter award, losing out to Justin Upton and David Price, respectively; in addition to Heyward, four players – Andruw Jones (1995-96), Rick Ankiel (1999), Josh Beckett (2001), and Jeff Francis (2004) – have taken home both) after a season that began in the High-A Carolina League, continued through the Double-A Southern League, and will likely end in the Triple-A International League (barring a late September experiential call-up to the Braves).

The 20-year-old Heyward was the fifth-rated prospect by Baseball America prior to last season and the only one of the top eleven on the list who has not seen action at the major league level.

His overall numbers at three stops – 17 homeruns, 63 RBI, 69 runs, 51 walks, 51 strikeouts, .323/.408/.555 – were very good.  What set Heyward apart, however, was the environment in which he posted those stats:

“When you consider his ability and his actual performance, especially what he’s done at higher levels, and the power he showed as a notorious pitcher’s park (in Myrtle Beach) … he had a standout season,” Baseball America editor John Manuel said. “His advanced plate discipline, combined with his youthfulness and the difficulty of those leagues ñ the Carolina League, the Southern League, they are very difficult for a 19 to 20-year-old – he made it look easy.”

That’s the amazing thing, when you think about it: Jason Heyward is still just 20-years-old (and a young twenty at that – his birthday was August 9).  Despite that, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing him in the Atlanta outfield next season.  You have to be at least a little special to reach the majors that early.

I don’t know how Heyward’s career will turn out, or if he will become an official Bus Leagues Favorite.  If nothing else, though, he’s off to a great start.

Vote For The USA Today Minor League Player Of The Year

I was looking through the Bus Leagues archives (because there’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning) and saw that last year around this time, Eric directed us to the online voting for USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year award (Tampa Bay’s David Price eventually won).

The newspaper has already named its finalists for the 2009 season and the polls are open.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Jose Giants/Connecticut Defenders – 12-2, 1.81 ERA, 23 G/22 GS, 91 SO, 123.1 IP, .214 BAA

Brian Matusz, LHP, Frederick Keys/Bowie Baysox – 11-2, 1.91 ERA, 19 GS, 121 SO, 113 IP, .211 BAA

Jason Heyward, OF, Myrtle Beach Pelicans/Mississippi Braves – .314 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 47 BB, 47 SO, .399/.557/.956

Buster Posey, C, San Jose Giants/Fresno Grizzlies – .318 BA, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 62 BB, 66 SO, .413/.529/.942

Carlos Santana, C, Akron Aeros – .285 BA, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 84 BB, 78 SO, .410/.523/.933

Not sure how much I agree with these selections.  If I have the time, maybe I’ll do my own ballot.  For position players, they seem to put a premium on guys who produce in Class AA and AAA while keeping their strikeout totals down (Heyward and Posey both did time in Class A Advanced this season but have also accumulated significant playing time in AA and AAA, respectively).  That might explain why Chris Carter gets no love despite hitting .333 with 24 homeruns and 105 RBI in Double- and Triple-A.

Bumgarner and Matusz have the numbers to be on the list.  I’m just put off by the fact that Matusz made it despite not having pitched in the minor leagues since August 1.  Bumgarner wasn’t great when I saw him in Manchester, but he has put up exceptional numbers for two straight seasons (27-5, 1.63 ERA, 255 SO, 54 BB, 265 IP) at three different levels.  His strikeouts are way down this year and his walks are up, but it’s not like San Francisco needs him to be The Man; if he can produce enough to be the number three starter behind Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, that’s a win in my book.

For the record, Bumgarner got my vote among the players listed and currently leads 38%-27% over Heyward after about 3600 votes.