Will we be seeing baseball's No. 1 prospect soon? Mark McCarter thinks maybe we should:
- It's a scorching afternoon in a near-empty ballpark as Jason Heyward strolls into the batting cage.
A Kanye West songs blares through the PA system and echoes through the park.
We're just wasting time.
Where's the finish line?
In the minds of many in Braves Nation, it's wasting time to have Heyward, a McDonough native, toiling away in Double-A when the obvious finish line is right field in Atlanta.
"It's just a matter of when. It's going to happen, probably in the very near future,” says his Mississippi teammate Greg Creek.
After 31 games in the Southern League, through Sunday, Heyward was batting .411 with six homers, 23 RBIs, a .492 on-base percentage and .729 slugging percentage. He has a sensational throwing arm and draws raves for his ability to hit with authority to all fields and his mature approach at the plate.
Now 20, he was recently named the game's best prospect by Baseball America in its midseason rankings, when he was playing in the Class A Carolina League.
Well, it's certainly true that the "obvious finish line" for Heyward is playing right field for the big club.
It's not so obvious that he should be doing that right now. Nobody's been talking about it much, but Ryan Church has been productive since joining the Braves. Matt Diaz is pretty good, too. The odd man out is Garret Anderson, who's batting .284 (as usual) but doing (as usual) very little else.
Is Jason Heyward -- all 20 years and 32 Double-A games of him -- better than Garret Anderson, right now?
Well, yeah. Maybe just a little bit. Fundamentally speaking, anyway. But how long would it take him to adjust to the bright lights and the big crowds of the National League? How would he respond to the pressure of a pennant race, and the (almost) inevitable failures that come with being the youngest player in the league?
When Andruw Jones first reached the majors, he was only 19, even younger than Heyward. Like Heyward, Jones blew through Class A, then Double-A (38 games), and then blasted through a dozen Triple-A games for good measure. The Braves had to call him up, right?
In 31 games with the big club, Jones batted .217/.265/.443 ... and improved just marginally the next season, when he played almost every day. Yes, yes ... Jones put on a show in the '96 World Series, and that counts for something. Still, I think if you're going to bring up a tyro with very little professional experience, you bring him up because you think he needs it. Not because you think you need it.