Jason Heyward was naturally a popular topic of discussion throughout the SABR convention in Atlanta last week and the 20-year-old rookie snapped a 31-game homerless streak last night.
Heyward has come back down to earth considerably after posting a 1.000 OPS through mid-May, hitting just .250 with modest power since then while playing through and then spending time on the disabled list with a thumb injury.
His season totals no longer put him in company like Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Alex Rodriguez, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, and Mickey Mantle, but an .827 OPS is still pretty damn impressive for a 20-year-old and watching him in person twice at Turner Field while attending the convention it’s tough not to see Heyward developing into a superstar.
His rookie production has been great, he certainly looks the part, and he seems to do even little things well. It may sound silly, but I was impressed by Heyward setting up properly under a fly ball in the gap to fire a strike to the cutoff man and prevent a runner from tagging up. He’s not only supremely talented and a physical specimen, he’s smart and fundamentally sound.
Here’s where Heyward’s current adjusted OPS+ of 122 stacks up with the best 20-year-old hitters in baseball history who qualified for the batting title:
Ty Cobb 167 Frank Robinson 142
Mel Ott 165 Ken Griffey Jr. 135
Al Kaline 162 Sherry Magee 134
Mickey Mantle 162 Tony Conigliaro 133
Alex Rodriguez 160 Vada Pinson 128
Ted Williams 160 Orlando Cepeda 125
Rogers Hornsby 150 JASON HEYWARD 122
Jimmie Foxx 148 Stuffy McInnis 121
Dick Hoblitzell 143 Willie Mays 120
Being one of just 18 players in baseball history to finish their age-20 season with an OPS+ above 120 would be impressive enough, but I suspect Heyward’s numbers would look even better if not for slumping through the thumb problems.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.
Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.
He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.