In 2010 the Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward and the San Francisco Giants Buster Posey were the headliners for that years rookie class.
Heyward, the super prospect, drew rave reviews for his performance that spring from Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, and a list of other current or future Hall of Famers that made it known he was as legitimate a prospect that had come along in a long time, and validated that assessment by being voted a starter in that year’s All-Star game.
In essence life was good, not just for those two franchises, but for the game of baseball.
In 2011 you could say both went through the dreaded “sophomore slump.” be it because of bad luck, injury, or otherwise the two weren’t able to improve on their fantastic first seasons. In Posey’s case, a horrific injury at home plate put an end to his second season. He was off to a good start (.284/4/21) which made it even harder for Giants fans to watch as their best hitter was taken out for the season.
Heyward, who finished second to Posey in Rookie of the Year voting, could never get it going after shoulder and thumb injuries caused him to alter his swing. He was called out by franchise icon Chipper Jones and even benched for lack of production in the crucial parts of last season.
Needless to say, spring couldn’t come soon enough for these two.
The key for both is to just get out there and start having fun with the game again. Heyward is as dynamic a player I’ve seen since a young Ken Griffey, Jr. He has mammoth power, good speed, and his plate discipline is well above average. That combination makes him a dangerous player. Posey, for his part, his an all-around athlete. Seeing him play multiple positions at Florida State and not affect his ability to hit for power and average.
While you can’t fault Posey for the way his season ended, he’s in this conversation because of it. While I believe Heyward will have the bigger season, I don’t want that to seem a slight to Posey. I can see him duplicating his numbers from his rookie year, at the same time he has yet to play a full 162-game schedule at the most grueling position in the sport. Many forget that back in 2010, a massive July aside, his numbers were fairly average across the board. Especially down the stretch. Take a look at the splits for Heyward and Posey in 2010 provided by baseball-reference.com:
Heyward- April-.240, May-, June-.181, July-.356, August-.299, September/October-.275 (Note: Heyward’s OBP never dipped below .360 at any point other than his injury in June of that year. In fact it was .400+ every other month)
Posey- May-.500 (12 at-bats), June-.259, July-.417, August-.282, September/October-.233 (Note: Posey failed to reach base at more than a .340 clip every month but July and his first 12 at-bats in May)
A closer look at the numbers gives a glimpse of the adjustments Heyward was able to make over the course of the season. Especially July, August, and September. Pointing out his June numbers will only remind us of the thumb injury he attempted to play through that kept him out of that year’s All-Star game.
It isn’t a coincidence that as their production/absence went so did their teams fortunes (the Braves and Giants missed the playoffs in 2011 after making it in 2010). Both have bright futures in this league, but my bet is on Heyward to have the bigger years to come while bouncing back nicely from 2011.