January 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Top 10 in ground ball rate since start of 2010:
Derek Jeter: 64.2%
Ichiro Suzuki: 58.6%
Elvis Andrus: 58.4%
Juan Pierre: 56.0%
Casey Kotchman: 55.6%
Yunel Escobar: 55.4%
Jason Heyward: 54.6%
Michael Bourn: 54.5%
Denard Span 53.9%
Brett Gardner: 52.8%
I have been on record saying I expect Heyward to come out and have a great season, somewhere near the tune of .265/.365/.455. Plus, 36% of the 813 of you who voted on our poll think Heyward will have the highest fWAR on the team, so more than a third of you think his numbers will more than rebound.
With that said, something needs to change with his ground ball tendencies. He can stay productive at that level, which he has over the past two years (yes a 98 wRC+ is still productive), but this ground ball rate needs to decline in order to achieve the level of greatness expected when he was ranked the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
The players above mostly small, light-hitting players. The average height of the other nine players is 72.33 inches, or six feet and 1/3 inches. The average weight is 192.2 lbs. Contrast that to Heyward’s 6″5, 240 lb listing. Obviously, Heyward’s size and shape is not quite in line with the other high ground ball hitters. While it is nice that Heyward has the ability to be a valuable offensive performer with a ground ball rate above 50%, the potential for him to be a franchise changing hitter will likely not be tapped with a rate that high. I think he can change, though I am not necessarily ready to say that he will. Until he proves otherwise, it is hard to project him hitting 30 or more homers any time soon.