SportsGrid.com has this spectacular .gif of Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward robbing the Yankees Raul Ibanez of a home run. This is definitely one of the better catches I have seen in a while and for a guy with the stature of Heyward (listed 6'5 and 240 lbs) shows how nimble of an athlete he is.
Sometimes it's hard to remember how young Heyward really is and at the age of 22 he still has a lot of baseball in him. Yes last year he struggled mightily in his sophomore season because he continued to try to pull the ball just like the end of his rookie season.
Heyward has obvious holes in his swing and when he is off he rolls his hands and hits grounders to the right side. Chipper Jones has been working on Heyward's swing path and his ability to drive the ball up the middle and to the opposite field since last year. With Heyward's god given ability there is no physical reason why he shouldn't be a Major League superstar barring injuries. But the key for Heyward this season and moving forward is to listen to guys like Chipper and follow the ball to the bat and try not to yank everything to the right side of the field. Heyward has an excellent eye so it's really just a mental part of the game he needs to get over. Can he do it? Sure. Will he do it? The 2012 season will be a good barometer.
There is little doubt the Braves need Heyward to be a superstar in order to contend for a playoff spot in a division that got much harder this offseason with the Nationals and Marlins both making significant upgrades in personnel. If Heyward can make adjustments like rookie Freddie Freeman did last season then I can see him putting up good numbers (.360 OBA, .800 plus OPS, drive in 100 plus) in a spot in the lineup with plenty of protections with guys like Dan Uggla, Brian McCann, Freeman, Chipper, and Martin Prado hitting around the big guy. Heyward has to step up and be the superstar everyone projected him to be when he took Carlos Zambrano's fastball on Opening Day and sent it express shipping to the Varsity.
The good news for Braves fans is Heyward is making adjustments this spring. Despite a slow start yesterday he hit a clutch, game tying 2-run bomb in the ninth. It was Heyward's 3rd homer of the spring and helped push his average over the infamous Mendoza line to .209. He still has a ways to go but as I mentioned before he is still young and it's way too early to give up on him like Jeff Francoeur. Hopefully his career progresses like the Chippers, McCanns, and now Freemans of Braves farmhands so Heyward can become the face of the franchise again.
Basically no more excuses for Heyward. It's time to perform in his 3rd big league season or it's going to be another long season for the Bravos.