The Atlanta Braves have suffered several season-ending injuries this year, but none have hurt quite like Jason Heyward’s on Wednesday. Heyward suffered a broken jaw that will require surgery on Thursday.
The Atlanta native will be out at least 4-6 weeks, which is the remainder of the regular season. In theory he will be ready to rejoin to the team in the playoffs, but that’s assuming he doesn’t lose any strength from an all-liquid diet. It’s hard to maintain the body of a Major Leaguer when all you can drink is a boost for breakfast, an ensure for desert and when somebody orders pancakes you can only sip the syzurp. That right there could drive a sane man bizerk.
What’s driving Braves fan’s bizerk is that Heyward’s injuries comes on the heels of season-ending injuries to SP Tim Hudson (ankle), INF Tyler Pastornicky (ACL, on a collision with Heyward), INF Ramiro Peña (shoulder), RP Eric O’Flaherty (Tommy John), and RP Johnny Venters (Tommy John).
Also frustrating about Heyward’s loss is the fact that he was beginning to look like the phenom ATLiens have been hoping for since his first at-bat in 2010. On the year Heyward is hitting .253 with an OPS of .771, 13 home runs and 37 RBI. But in the last 22 games he had come into his own, primarily as a leadoff hitter, hitting .327 with an on-base percentage of .426.
J-Hey’s loss will also impact the Braves’ defensively. Certainly B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer are more than compentent fielders, but as ESPN Stats and Info writes, Hewyard is the Braves’ best outfielder. Hewyard has 64 runs saved for the Braves since 2010, second only to Seattle Mariners’ SS Brendan Ryan in that span.
I think the logical move for Fredi Gonzalez is to move Schafer into left and the leadoff spot. That would allow Justin Upton, who’s a below average fielder, to move back to right field where he played in Arizona. B.J. Upston can handle center and Schafer/Evan Gattis can play left.
Schafer looks like a new man this season for Atlanta. Hitting .286 with an on-base percentage of .375. He’s looked so good in fact that Gonzalez looked to be platooning him along with B.J. Upton, who was signed to a $75 million contract this off-season. Upton has taken the limited at-bats in stride, telling the AJC that he really doesn’t haven an argument for more playing time at this point in the year with his .183 average.
With a 15-game lead in the divisional race, Atlanta all but has a playoff spot locked up, but the Braves need to finish strong and ensure themselves of home-field advantage the rest of the way. B.J. Upton will need to at least resemble a major league hitter for that to be possible. Let’s hope that Heyward’s injury gives him the spark to turn it around.
As for Heyward, let’s hope he’s ready to go by October. And if he doesn’t come up to the plate with Through The Wire as his walk-up song, well that would be just another Atlanta October disappointment in a long line of them.