Jason Heyward is in the midst of his first extended slump, going 1-for-20 in his last seven games, and Braves manager Bobby Cox thinks he’s being too patient at the plate:
We’re going to talk to him. He’s taking way too many pitches for strikes. [As a result] he’s getting one pitch to swing at right now.
Not many 20-year-old rookies are accused of being too patient during their first month in the big leagues, but Heyward is so good that even his problems are positive ones.
As for whether there’s truth to what Cox is saying, thanks to Fan Graphs we can see that the numbers seemingly agree. Heyward has 13 walks and 25 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances, which certainly shows that he’s taking tons of pitches and working deep counts often. In fact, he ranks third in the league with an average of 4.47 pitches per plate appearance.
He’s also swung at the fourth-lowest percentage of pitches inside the strike zone, which certainly matches Cox’s assessment that Heyward is letting many hittable pitches go by. Also worth noting is that when Heyward does swing he has the 10th-worst contact rate in the league.
Ultimately this is all picking nits, because he’s a 20-year-old rookie with an .806 OPS, but it’ll be interesting to see what type of adjustments Heyward makes now that he’s experienced some adversity.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.