So here's the best news of the morning: I watched the video of Jason Heyward's jaw getting broken so you don't have to. I mean, go ahead if you want. But it's a fastball off the jaw. Fortunately, no blood. I wish I could tell you what it's like. But when my jaw got busted, I was just semi-conscious and today I don't remember anything at all. I do recall, quite well, what it's like to spend a couple of months with your jaw wired shut. But I don't know if that'll happen to Heyward (if it does, I'll bet he eats better than I did: all soup and milkshakes, all the time).
It's been reported that Heyward will miss the rest of the regular season, which isn't any surprise. The door's still open for the postseason, and you never know what might happen, but it doesn't seem real likely that he'll play a big role in October. Unless even a recovering-from-a-broken-jaw Heyward is better than what the Braves can run out there. Which, come to think of it, isn't impossible. Here are the OPS+'s of the Braves' top four outfielders this season:
129 (Justin Upton)
119 (Jordan Schafer)
110 (Jason Heyward)
109 (Evan Gattis)
098 (Joey Terdoslavich)
056 (B.J. Upton)
... and that's really just about it.
About B.J. Upton ... well, at this point the less said the better. Bossman Junior actually started on Wednesday, and went 0 for 4 with a couple of strikeouts. It's been more than two weeks since HIS LAST HIT, and the best thing you can say about Upton is that he's due. He's really really really really really due. Really.
And baseball being baseball, if B.J. starts every game in October, he'll probably come up with a big hit. It seems unlikely that he'll get many chances, though. Considering he's been an automatic out for the last five months.
The only thing for damn sure is that Junior's little brother is going to play a heck of a lot. Along with maybe Jordan Schafer. Who's a heck of a story, by the way. You'll recall that Schafer was a big story with the Braves for about three minutes in 2009, after which he just didn't hit. At all. Which first got him traded to the Astros, and later released. By the Astros. But for whatever reason, the Braves gave him another shot this season, and now somehow he's hitting.
So Schafer's in, at least against right-handed pitchers.
Which leaves just Gattis and Terdaslovich, both of whom are problematic.
Gattis has started 25 games in left field, and as a left fielder he's in the mold of Greg Luzinski and Kevin Mitchell. Which would be okay if Gattis hit like those guys. But after hitting a dozen homers in April and May, he's hit just one home run in 24 games since coming off the Disabled List in July. Maybe he'll fine. Probably he'll be fine. But the Braves are fortunate to have already locked up first place; they have six weeks to find out if Gattis was for real.
Same goes for Terdaslovich, I guess. He's never been a great prospect, but was pasting the ball in Triple-A this summer before getting the call from the big club. He's not done much yet, but it's only 60 plate appearances. And he's a switch-hitter, with no particular demonstrated platoon difference.
Oh, and in case you're wondering: No, there's no more help coming from the farm. Terdaslovich was it.
So barring a waiver deal or something, what you see is what the Braves get. And yeah, it's a problem. They're measurably worse without Jason Heyward than with him. They'll miss his bat, and they'll miss his glove. Schafer will be exposed as an every-day player, Gattis will be exposed as a left fielder, Terdaslovich might be exposed as a major leaguer, and it seems B.J. Upton is just flat-out exposed.
As a fan, I'm looking forward to watching manager Fredi Gonzalez manage this situation. The outfield was supposed to be easy this season. But Bossman Junior made it hard, and now it's harder.
Meanwhile, you gotta feel a little for Heyward. It sure feels like he's been a real disappointment, considering how excited we were in the spring of 2010. But would you believe that Heyward's Wins Above Replacement over these last four seasons ranks fifth among National League outfielders? It's true. Only Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Bourn, and Carlos Gonzalez are ahead of Heyward's 18 Wins+. For a guy who turned 24 just a couple of weeks ago, Heyward's actually off to a great start.
There are only so many Mike Trouts and Bryce Harpers to go around.
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