When you are looking at Jason Heyward and Adam Jones, you are talking about two of the emerging outfielders in the league. Entering 2012, there were definite concerns surrounding Heyward (i.e. his ability to hit for power), while Jones was coming off a career year (25 HR, 12 SB). A year later, Jones showed an additional gear, while Heyward is coming off a breakout campaign. So who is the better draft day selection for 2013? Lets take a look:
Heyward—Over his first two professional seasons, Heyward had shown a propensity to drive the ball into the ground, with ground-ball rates of 55.1 percent and 53.9 percent. It is hard to hit for a lot of power doing that, bringing the valid concerns on if he would develop into anything more than a 20ish home run hitter. However, in his third season, Heyward seemed to figure it out.
He lowered his ground-ball rate to 44 percent and, in turn, the power flourished. Not only did he set a career high in home runs, but in doubles (30) and triples (six), as well. Given his 16.9 percent HR/FB, which was right along the lines of his career mark of 16 percent, there is no reason to think that he can’t at least maintain last year's break out. In fact, seeing a 30-plus HR campaign from him in 2013 is extremely realistic.
Jones—Like Heyward, he set a career high in home runs, as well as doubles (39) in 2012. The difference is that his HR/FB, which as been trending up, reached 18.8 percent (career mark of 14.1 percent). If you think he can maintain that level or not will determine if you think he can replicate his success.
He actually saw his power dip in the second half (12 HR), based on a much more believable 15.8 percent HR/FB (he was at 21.3 percent in the first half). The former is probably the more believable number for fantasy owners to expect, meaning he likely is more of a consistent 24-27 HR threat.
Edge—Heyward by a hair, but this could easily be a draw
Heyward—His problem is his ability to make contact (23.3 percent in ’12) because he hit the ball reasonably hard (19.3 percent line drive rate) and posted a realistic BABIP (.319). He had been right around 20.5 percent over his first two seasons, so there is the potential for an improvement. If that happens, you would anticipate an average in the mid-.270s, with some upside.
Jones—Even if you want to claim that his 21.5 percent line drive rate is unsustainable (he hasn’t been above 17.8 percent since becoming an every day player), he has been in the .280s in each of the past three seasons (and is a career .278 hitter). It’s hard to expect anything less, especially with a consistently sold strikeout rate (18.3 percent or better in three of the past four years).
Edge—Jones, due to more stability
Heyward—We knew he had this type of potential, so it was nice to see him actually post this type of number. I wouldn’t expect too much more than a low 20s campaign, but that certainly is enough with his other assets.
Jones—We have been hearing about 20/20 potential for Jones, but last season was the first time he stole more than 12 bases in a Major League season. How can we expect anything more?
Heyward—He spent about half of 2012 hitting third in the lineup (328 AB), but that should be his full-time spot in 2013. It is possible that the addition of Justin Upton pushes him to the No. 2 spot, but that seems unlikely to me. Heyward is coming off of a much better season, is home grown and has just as much upside. Expect 90-plus to be a minimum.
Jones—Like Heyward, Jones should be in a prime lineup spot to drive in runs (most likely third or fourth). The question is, can Nate McLouth continue his renaissance and give Jones ample opportunities to drive him in? Jones hit exclusively third or fourth last season, mustering only 82 RBI. While there is upside, I wouldn’t expect it to be a major jump.
Edge—Heyward, due to his upside and better lineup
Heyward—He scored 93 runs, despite hitting fifth and sixth a total of 200 times last season. Now, imagine what he can do with Freddie Freeman and probably Justin Upton hitting behind him all season?
Jones—He scored a ton of runs, but can we expect Chris Davis to have the same type of power season? A regression there is going to hurt Jones.
Edge—Probably a tie
At this point, while Jones is coming off a career year, it is hard to imagine him repeating it. Whether it is his own regression or in the supporting cast around him, it's easy to imagine the numbers coming down across the board. On the flip side, Heyward showed 20/20 skills and, hitting third full-time, should go at least 90/90 with 100/100 upside. Outside of average (and that isn’t even too far off), he is either the equal or better than Jones. In other words, he is an easy choice of the two.
What are your thoughts? Which outfielder would you rather have? Why?
Make sure to check out all of our 2013 Player Comparisons: