Now that Jason Heyward has officially made the Braves it’s time to start thinking about what kind of rookie season he’s capable of putting together at age 20.
Here are his projections from a few prominent sources:
AVG OBP SLG OPS Baseball Prospectus .274 .345 .461 .806 Rotoworld Draft Guide .267 .343 .440 .783 Baseball Think Factory .275 .341 .429 .770
Combining those projections has Heyward hitting .272 with a .343 on-base percentage and .443 slugging percentage, which is good for a .786 OPS that would put him about five percent above average overall. While those numbers may not match the incredible hype and expectations, throughout the entire history of baseball a grand total of just 29 players have qualified for the batting title with an above-average OPS as 20-year-olds.
The only 20-year-olds with an above-average OPS in the past 30 years are Roberto Alomar in 1988, Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990, Alex Rodriguez in 1996, and Adrian Beltre in 1999. That’s two sure-fire Hall of Famers, one likely Hall of Famer, and a former MVP runner-up with 250 homers through age 30. And no 20-year-old has done it since 1999. In other words, if Heyward has a .786 OPS this season Braves fans should be thrilled.
In fact, Heyward merely staying in the majors and playing regularly would put him in strong company, as only 19 outfielders have ever logged 500 plate appearances at age 20. Here’s the list: Griffey, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Cesar Cedeno, Tony Conigliaro, Vada Pinson, Rick Manning, Buddy Bell, Claudell Washington, Sherry Magee.
Put it this way: Throw those names in a hat and draw one at random. You’ll likely end up with a Hall of Famer.