There’s no denying how rough Jason Heyward‘s tenure began with the Cubs. It would be generous to call his first season with the Cubs underwhelming. That’s especially true for a player that signed the richest contract in Cubs history: a whopping eight years, $184 million.
In 2016 Heyward hit just seven home runs, matching an equally ugly .230/.306/.325 triple slash. Defense has never been a problem for the five time gold glove award winner in Chicago, but his offense left many to conclude that lengthy contract to be nothing short of an albatross.
The inability to produce kept Heyward out of some lineups in the 2016 postseason run, particularly in the World Series. Heyward recorded a lowly .150 batting average, being utilized mostly as a defensive replacement in right field. He only started four of the seven games against Cleveland.
In 2017 Heyward improved ever so slightly, slashing .258/.326/.389, improved numbers that still register as an under-performing season for the right fielder. After only having 49 RBI in 2016 he managed to drive in 59 in 2017. We started to see an upward trend in Heyward’s offensive game in 2018, slashing .270/.335/.395. All told, however, Heyward’s first three seasons with the Cubs produced WAR totals that resembled role player status:
Then, 2019 happened.
The Redemption Year
It wasn’t until recently that Joe Maddon moved Jason Heyward to the leadoff spot after the hitting clinic he was putting on near the middle of the lineup. In the month of July Heyward had outstanding statistical measures and by far one of his best months as a Cub, hitting .309/.333/.420.
Heyward settling into the leadoff role might just give the Cubs the answer they’ve struggled to find ever since the departure of former-Cub-now-Cardinal, Dexter Fowler. Not only has Heyward replaced Fowler at the leadoff spot, he’s also managed to take over the bulk of playing time in center field, sliding over for the recently acquired Nick Castellanos. While Heyward remains an elite defender in right field, playing center hasn’t been a problem at all. Watching him flashing some leather never gets old:
Jason Heyward lays out to make the snag. 👏
— theScore (@theScore) August 2, 2019
In putting up his best numbers in 2019, Heyward has surprised and impressed fans, playing at a high level that, to date, has produced a slash line of .274/.350/.464. Joe Maddon didn’t shy away at all recently in praising Heyward’s play:
Maddon on Jason Heyward:
“Right now, he’s leading us. He’s absolutely leading the offense right now. And even what he’s done on defense, he’s very much take charge out there. He’s always interacting with people. Give the guy a lot of credit.”
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) August 4, 2019
Not only does Heyward have his best slashing statistics as a Cub, he also has 17 home runs to go along with it and it doesn’t look like he will be stopping there! Jason has rediscovered the player the Cubs had hoped for when they had signed him to that big contract.
Maintaining his rejuvenated offensive output will not only help in keeping this lineup’s output consistent, it’s necessary for the Cubs to make another long playoff push and pursue a second championship in this window.
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