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Can Jason Heyward Finally Live Up To His Potential?

Chris Ventra Staff Writer April 26, 2017 4:58PM EDT

Here we are almost four weeks into the MLB season and as we’ve seen in year’s past, there have been some shocking revelations, pleasant surprises, and your classic disappointments. Madison Bumgarner decided to ride a dirt bike not a month in, and as we all know by now he got hurt… Who predicted that one? Shocking. Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for PED use, Dallas Keuchel thinks it’s 2015 again, and the Toronto Blue Jays are still the worst team in baseball.

The beautiful thing about MLB is how it never fails to keep things interesting. We can study for months, crunch the sabermetrics, and make our projections as efficiently as possible, yet it will continuously throw us curveball after curveball when we’re looking fastball. It can be a love/hate relationship, to say the least, but we’ll always come back and love it again, because sometimes all the arduous work can pay off.

The following are some updates/trends on perplexing players prior to the 2017 season, as well as platoon situations worth monitoring right now; players on a short leash in their lineups, rotations, and bullpen roles due to inconsistencies, injury history, or straight up underperformance in the past. These are the guys that drive you crazy, the guys that are near impossible to project; I call them the “slackliners”.

Some Slackliners Losing Their Balance

Can Jason Heyward still become what we all thought he'd become? -Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire

Can Jason Heyward still become what we all thought he’d become? Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire

Arizona Diamondbacks number five starter, Shelby Miller, entered 2017 on the right foot with three solid performances. Things began to slip his grasp when he allowed three earned runs and five walks in four innings during his last outing on April 23rd. He was then pulled in the fifth inning after feeling forearm tightness in his pitching arm… uh oh. Miller started his promising career off nicely with the St. Louis Cardinals, showing ideal career trends and peripherals. Not only was he performing, but he also had an excellent pedigree of anticipation displayed as a first-round draft pick in 2009 and a unanimous Top 30 prospect ranking from all three major sources pre-2013. His career trends were mostly uphill from there until a dreadful 2016 with Arizona. Miller came into 2017 as a slackliner, fighting for a spot in the rotation during Spring Training, and now he’s on the DL again. The good news is the injury doesn’t seem to be too serious and he should return once eligible. The sad news is, can you trust him? I’d say not, even in NL-only or deeper mixed Fantasy Leagues. The only time I’d suggest picking him up is if you have an open slot or droppable player and Miller has a two-start week with favorable matchups. Otherwise, his career is trending in the wrong direction at a rapid pace, which might be what the Cardinals and Braves anticipated as well. For the time being, Archie Bradley may take his spot in the rotation, another high-end prospect who hasn’t panned out thus far.

Pablo Sandoval of the Boston Red Sox was recently placed on the 10-day DL after spraining his knee. Sandoval is a guy who started on most Fantasy rosters early in his San Francisco Giants days. Some were hoping he’d bring a little of that back in 2017 after shedding some weight and looking healthy. After years of stagnant play and injuries I’d say he’s been losing balance on that slackline for a while. With a cold start and now the knee injury, I wouldn’t recommend having him fill one of your roster slots, and he might eventually lose his starting job at third base for the Red Sox as well. Currently, the Kung-Fu Panda’s role should be somewhat secure, or at the very least he may platoon with Josh Rutledge if he underperforms. However, Sandoval’s clock is ticking in Boston because there’s a young stud third base prospect named Rafael Devers blasting his way through Double-A right now. Devers is only 20 years old and needs the time in the minors to polish his game and grow, but sooner or later he’ll be up at the big club.

One Slackliner Making His Way Back to Safe Ground

Talk about highly touted prospects, Jason Heyward was one of the biggest in the last ten to fifteen years. In 2007, Heyward was the Atlanta Braves first round pick, not too long after he was the number one prospect in MLB. He really impressed everyone when he smoothly transitioned to the pros in 2010, batting .277 with 18 HRs, 11 SBs, and 91 BBs in 520 at bats. He made the All-Star game as a rookie and ended up coming in second place for the Rookie of The Year Award. So, what happened to him? Fast forward to 2016, and nobody from 2010 would’ve thought his career could look the way it does now; specifically, his 2016 campaign which saw him take yet another step backwards to what I can only project as his rock bottom. Today, however, is a different day, a new year, and maybe even a new Heyward. He started off relatively slow, but lately he’s been raking. Heyward’s had a hit in every game he’s played but two, and one of those games he came off the bench for one at bat. He’s hit three HRs in his last four games and looks to be getting more and more comfortable at the plate. It’s frustrating with Heyward because we all know the talent is there, he’s a great outfielder defensively, and we’ve all seen him display pop, speed, and great discipline at times. And although he’s already played seven years in the majors, he’s still only 27, which many consider to be the beginning stages of a player’s prime years. So, can he turn it around? The answer is yes, of course he can turn it around. There’s been many before him, and there’ll be many after him with less talent who’ve turned their careers around at all different ages. Jose Bautista didn’t do anything until age 29, when out of nowhere he hit 54 HRs in 2010. There are also plenty of highly touted players who never figured it out and never turned it around, like the current Red Sox platoon outfielder Chris Young. Baseball’s a funny game. Shocking and unexpected things happen all the time, so to think Heyward can’t become a relevant player/Fantasy player again is ludicrous. Keep a very close eye on Heyward, he’s less than 50 percent owned in ESPN leagues but that number is rapidly growing.

Updated Platoon Situations Worth Monitoring

Outfielders Aaron Altherr/Michael Saunders– Updating from an earlier article, Altherr is gaining ground as the starter while in-the-midst of a seven-game tear.

Relievers Koda Glover/Shawn Kelley/Blake Treinen– The saga that is the volatile closer situation in the Washington bullpen continues. Treinen lost the job after a few bad outings, Kelley then recorded three solid saves in a row, but now Glover got the last two saves… Make up your mind Dusty Baker!

Outfielders Ezequiel Carrera/Steve Pearce– Carrera has been winning this battle of late, batting .311 for the season and posting solid counting numbers within the last nine games. Pearce, on the other hand, is batting under .200 and hasn’t been playing much recently.

The Texas Rangers- SP AJ Griffin has been stellar in his last two starts but missed the last one due to a quick DL stint, he’s scheduled to start May 3rd at Houston. Andrew Cashner has also performed well in recent outings and should stick in the rotation until Tyson Ross returns from the DL sometime in May… I won’t even mention the mess that is the Rangers bullpen.

Second basemen Jason Kipnis/Yandy Diaz– Kipnis recently came off the DL and should slot into the Indians everyday lineup from now on. Yandy Diaz stands as the odd man out and will most likely not see much playing time from here on.

First basemen Dan Vogelbach/Danny Valencia– OF Leonys Martin was recently designated for assignment opening a spot on the active roster for Dan Vogelbach. Incumbent first basemen Danny Valencia has been struggling mightily all season and a platoon in favor of Vogelbach should be the case for now. Eventually, Vogelbach should win the starting job; it’d be wise to keep Valencia off your radar.

Catchers Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez– Leon started the season hot but has since faded significantly to the tune of a .205 BA. Vazquez is batting .478 in only 23 at bats, but I wouldn’t recommend either right now considering their current platoon share may continue for quite a while until someone steps up big. Leon was considered Fantasy relevant at one point. Those days might be over, so drop/bench him in all formats.

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