Fantasy Impact: Cubs Sign Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward continued the busy offseason in Major League Baseball by signing an eight-year deal with the Chicago Cubs worth $184 million, though he can opt out of the contract after the 2018 season. This move positions him to hit second for one of the most potent lineups in the league, with the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber batting behind him. The Cardinals certainly didn’t have a poor lineup last season, but Heyward was never given a stable spot in the order, which stopped him from gaining true fantasy value in any set of categories.
The top half of the Cubs’ lineup should be fairly well set, meaning the key to Heyward’s fantasy value this year will be his ability to get in scoring position, whether via extra-base hits or stolen bases. While many who detract from Heyward point to his falling power numbers, Heyward has dropped his swinging strike rate and increased his contact each season since 2012. Though he may never hit 27 home runs again as he did in 2012, his high volume of contact has allowed him to keep a high average while also tallying a good amount of extra-base hits. This is reflected in his batted ball profile from the 2015 season, as he had an extreme 2.44 GB/FB ratio yet recorded the second most extra-base hits in his career. While this may not be replicated in the 2016 season, the fact that Heyward is hitting more ground balls is not necessarily bad for his fantasy value because it increases his average, but because he is putting more balls in play the number of times he leaves the yard or finds gaps in the outfield for extra-base hits remain relatively steady.
In terms of steals, the Cubs were more aggressive than the Cardinals on the basepaths last season and it should remain that way this year. Heyward is extremely efficient as he has 43 steals on 50 attempts in the past two seasons. This can be taken two ways moving towards the 2106 season, either that he will steal more bases because he will be given more opportunities, or his stolen bases will remain relatively constant because he reads pitchers extremely well and will only steal bases when he is fairly certain he will be successful. As is often the case, reality is probably somewhere in between the two possibilities, meaning Heyward could see a slight uptick in his steals but don’t expect the number to skyrocket.
Jason Heyward is currently ranked 56th overall according to the Expert Consensus Ratings, which is a steep price to pay. However, if you take care of power in the first few rounds, Heyward could fit your team nicely as a fifth-round pick with a low .280s average, 15 home runs, 90 runs, and 20-25 stolen bases.