Just when we thought things would get easier with the possible retirement of Chipper Jones, someone just as talented and just as dangerous has stepped up to be the new Mets killer.
Enter Jason Heyward.
Like Chipper before him, Heyward was a first round pick. He was selected 14th overall by the Braves in the 2007 draft. That year, the Mets forfeited their first round pick for signing free agent Moises Alou. They did have two supplemental first rounders; Eddie Kunz and Nathan Vineyard.
Isn’t it amazing how after eleven straight first place finishes from 1995-2005, the Braves finish third in 2006 and while Mets fans still have nightmares over one nasty curveball, Braves fans got what could possibly be the most exciting and talented rookie since Ken Griffey Jr.?
Heyward has burst onto the scene with all the subtlety of a hydrogen bomb. Jason Heyward hit .323 with 17 home runs in 99 games last year in the minors. Baseball America selected him as the 2009 Minor League Player of the Year. This season, Heyward has been as good as advertised, and maybe even better.
In Spring Training, Chipper Jones was awed by his immense power and stature.
“Heyward looks like a bigger, more muscular version of Fred McGriff. And that’s saying something. Fred’s 6-5, 230 or so. This kid, he’s built like a brick house. To watch the way the ball jumps off his bat. It’s batting practice, I know, and everybody’s supposed to do that in batting practice, but…I got to hit with him yesterday, and I was more than impressed.”
In May, Chipper would later go to manager Bobby Cox and plead with him to bat Jason Heyward third instead of himself because it would make the team better. Now that’s what I call class. Can you imagine any Mets veteran ever doing something as selfless as that?
While us Mets fans debate over whether Lucas Duda or Fernando Martinez is the better prospect (I use the word prospect very loosely.), lets look at Heyward a little closer.
Heyward rolled into Citi Field last night in the midst of tremendous hot streak, the hottest of his short career.
He showed no signs of slowing down and blasted a three-run homer of Jon Niese that still hasn’t landed and lifted the Braves to a 6-4 win against the Mets. After another successful conquest, Heyward is now 40-for-97 (.412) with 13 extra-base hits, 23 runs and a .519 on-base percentage in his last 25 games. Those are some jaw-dropping numbers.
The first thing any Braves fan will tell you about their young phenom is not how great a hitter he is, but instead they describe him in one word… CLUTCH.
We are only now beginning to see that as Mets fans. His success against us though impressive, may only be just the tip of the iceberg. In his past five games against the Mets, he is 11-for-22 with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs.
How good is Heyward, and where does he rank among other great rookies who debuted at the age of 20 years old? Here is what I discovered, only nine players in baseball history have had a higher OPS than Heyward if his season was to end today. In order they are: Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Al Kaline, Jimmy Foxx, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Tony Conigliaro, and Vada Pinson. There’s a good chance he can still finish ahead of the last four names on that list.
Pretty wild, huh?
They’re calling him the J-Hey Kid… And I have a super bad feeling that he could be just as big of a Mets killer as Chipper Jones was.