Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward had his worst season as a major leaguer last year. Once considered the best prospect in baseball, Heyward’s entire career has been underwhelming for many despite a rather impressive total of 32.7 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference. A lot of that value, though, was accrued with his defense and base running, not with his bat. Last year, Heyward hit .230/.306/.325 with seven home runs and 49 RBI in 592 plate appearances. His .631 OPS was the third-worst mark among qualified hitters, ahead only of shortstops Adeiny Hechavarria and Alexei Ramirez. Heyward was even less reliable in the postseason, batting .104 in 50 trips to the plate.
During the offseason, hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske helped retool Heyward’s swing, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.
No longer would Heyward twist his top hand and wrap the bat around his shoulder. His bat angle would be more vertical, removing the tension from his shoulders. He would lower his hands to be in a more relaxed position and move his lower half first, allowing his hands to work.
Though Heyward is hitless in eight at-bats to start the spring, his coaches and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein are happy with the progress he’s made. Epstein said, “I’ve never seen a veteran player work as much as Jason did this winter, let alone right after winning a World Series and having already signed a long-term deal. It shows how much he cares, his dedication, his pride and his character. He’s the ultimate pro.”
Heyward is entering the third year of an eight-year, $184 million contract, so it behooves the Cubs to help Heyward reach his fullest potential sooner rather than later. Considering the talent elsewhere on the roster, imagining the Cubs with a productive Heyward is scary.