2013 Pod Projections: Jason Heyward

It’s been nearly two weeks since I posted my last Pod Projection after the journey to estimate/project HR/FB ratio took over my life. Surprisingly, Jason Heyward tallied nary a vote when I first asked you readers who you wanted me to publish a projection breakdown for next. Instead, fellow RotoGrapher Howard Bender requested Heyward, while kickin’ rocks of course. Big things were expected of Heyward as a rookie and big things are still expected. As such, I thought he was a hitter more than worthy of a statistical dissection.

2013 Pod Projection Index
Carlos Gomez
Mark Trumbo
Brett Lawrie

At-Bats: 575
Heyward is expected to move up to second in the batting order, after jumping around in the lineup last season. That normally should lead to a higher at-bat projection than the previous season, but Heyward hasn’t exactly been the most iron of men. So 575 it is to hedge against the prospect of some missed time due to various nicks and bruises.

Contact Rate: 76% (a reminder, this is [at-bats – strikeouts] / at-bats, which differs from FG’s K%)
Heyward posted a 74% contact rate last year, 77% in 2011 and 75% during his rookie 2010 season. He made much better contact in his minor league days, posting rates in the mid-to-high 80% range. Hitters usually do see their contact rates slip a bit upon the move to the Majors, but the decline isn’t typically this dramatic. It’s possible that contact skill suddenly reemerges sometime in the future.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 46%/18%/36%
In his first two seasons, one of the big knocks on Heyward was that he didn’t hit enough fly balls to be an elite power hitter. He was never going to reach the 30 home run plateau, much less the 40 bomb level some thought he would peak at, by killing worms so frequently. But then 2012 came along and his fly ball rate jumped for the second straight year. It’s still too low to think a 40 home run season ever has a chance of happening, but at least he now has the potential to be a consistent 30 homer threat.

BABIP: .320
Although Heyward’s career IFFB% is relatively high, we could probably throw out his inflated 2011 mark as he was dealing with shoulder issues which likely played a role. So we’re now left with a hitter who hits fewer pop-ups than average, records more ground balls than flies and has excellent power and speed. Sounds like a recipe for a good, but not great, BABIP, which is slightly higher than his career mark, again, dragged down by the injury riddled 2011.

HR/FB Ratio: 18%
This is where Heyward fan club members look first. His career high currently stands at about 17%, so this projection would set a new one. Heyward is still just 23, so we know that his power should still be on the rise. Although his average home run plus fly ball distance has actually been in decline since his rookie season, it still sits at 290 feet, which is rather strong, though not quite at the 300+ level where the distance leaders stand. I am as against the concept of using gut feeling as part of a projection as there is. However, Heyward’s size and early scouting reports just lead me to believe he should be showing even more power than he has.

RBI and Runs: 80 and 100
It’s hard to knock in runs when you’re hitting second and assumed lead-off hitter at the moment, Andrelton Simmons, is not going to have a pretty OBP. So unless Heyward gets dropped in the order at some point during the season, it’s going to be difficult to exceed this projection. The runs scored projection is somewhat of a question mark. Heyward’s walk rate has declined significantly since his rookie season, so we cannot be totally sure what kind of OBP he is going to post. If his walk rate does rebound and he stays healthy, he’s actually a nice candidate to lead the league in runs scored.

SBs: 16
Base stealers the size of Heyward scare me. You don’t know when it’s going to happen, but you do know that one year they will suddenly curb their running game and the speed won’t return. I am obviously not projecting that already; however, given his mediocre career success rate (just 72%), and the fact that he had stolen 20 bases in his previous 1,079 plate appearances, I have to assume some regression.

Below is my final projected batting line, along with Bill James and Fans projections for comparison.

Pod 575 0.277 28 80 100 16 76% 0.320 18% 46%/33%/36%
Bill James 567 0.272 26 82 92 20 77% 0.311 ?? ??
Fans (69) 592 0.279 29 100 97 20 76% 0.320 ?? ??

As usual with my hitter projections, we are all projecting similar production with no major breakout. For those curious, given my projected combination of fly ball and contact rates, Heyward would need a 19% HR/FB ratio for 30 homers, 22% for 35 homers and 25.5% for 40 homers. The good news is that those marks aren’t outlandish, but of course he hasn’t shown that type of ability just yet. That said, I don’t think it would shock anyone if he completely explodes this season.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

12 Responses to “2013 Pod Projections: Jason Heyward”

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  1. Fletcher says:

    Nice work as always, Mike! I’d be interested to see your projections for the Royal’s young CIs, Hosmer or Moose?

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  2. george says:

    Be nice to see how last year’s estimates worked out too!

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    • Unfortunately, I already deleted all my projections from last year :-(. However, even if I had them, I wouldn’t know how to measure my success.

      That said, Tom Tango ran a projections challenge for several years (he ended it like two years ago) and my projections were always part of it. They always did quite well, beating many of the well-known computer-based systems. They also came in first in one of the contests the first year against 21 other systems.

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  3. Steve says:

    “Surprisingly, Jason Heyward tallied nary a vote when I first asked you readers who you wanted me to publish a projection breakdown for next.”

    Maybe you should have went with someone else then ; )

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  4. Howard Bender says:

    While I am hoping for a slightly greater increase in power, my name is Howard Bender and I approve of this post.

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  5. deezy333 says:

    How would you rank Upton, Jones and Heyward for redraft fantasy purposes?

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    • Wow, you picked three guys who are pretty close! Jones is definitely last and has the least upside. I think I prefer Upton (I assume you mean Justin) over Heyward. He has the better lineup slot (3rd offers higher potential for runs + rbis) and his speed is probably safer. He also hits more fly balls.

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  6. scott says:

    heyward vs cespedes? im leaning cespedes. i think hr/sbs and r/rbi cancel out. i like cespedes in avg and ops(cat in my lg)

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    • I’d lean Heyward. Better lineup, ballpark, and more of a known quantity. And Heyward has the potential to really outwalk Cespedes which would give him the OPS advantage if the other cats are close.

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      • scott says:

        heyward def has the adv of park and lineup but despite park and lineup cespedes did put up a 162 gm pace of 28 103 20 297 .860. I also think a natural uptick is likely simply because hes going to be more comfortable in a new country etc. Id be surprised if that was the best we get from him in his rookie season. His 2nd half vs 1st half might be evidence of what he can do over a full season. post all star break 75gp 51r 14hr 46rbi 309 909.

        i will probably be flip flopping on this up until my draft. heyward is def the consensus but i dont see a clear distinction between the 2.

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      • scott says:

        and 10 sbs*

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  7. Scott Brosius says:

    Love the step by step clinical analysis. The leap of faith on hr/fb ratio is unfortunate.

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