From Baseball America's story about 2009's Player of the Year:
- ATLANTA-The parallels between players are impossible to miss, yet it doesn't take long for Braves officials to try and distance Jason Heyward from former Braves phenom Jeff Francoeur.
Braves general manager Frank Wren and farm director Kurt Kemp are comfortable with the suggestion that Heyward, who just turned 20, is on track to one day be the face of the franchise, or at least join catcher Brian McCann in sharing the role as the career of Chipper Jones winds down in Atlanta.
So they speak in a respectful yet hesitant way, mindful that there is only so much they can do to manage perceptions. It's natural for people to wonder if Francoeur left behind a cautionary tale, which the Braves used to create a new template that they're applying to Heyward.
"The answer to that, I would say, is no," Kemp said. "I can't give you an example of something we would do differently. I think we have to fairly give Jason Heyward a chance to be Jason Heyward. I think he is his own person, with his own personal makeup. . . with the similarity that they're both hometown guys."
Oh, gosh. I don't think the parallels tell us anything at all about Jason Heyward.
Francoeur's first significant time in Double-A came when he was 21; in 84 games, he struck out 76 times, drew 21 walks, and posted a .322 on-base percentage.
Heyward's first time in Double-A came this summer, when he was just turning 20; in 47 games he struck out 19 times, drew 28 walks, and posted a .446 on-base percentage.
The sample sizes are small, and so we shouldn't assume that the difference between their Class AA talents are quite as massive as those numbers would suggest. But there's really no comparison between them, and the comparisons are being made only because the Braves promoted to the majors a Double-A player with a .322 on-base percentage.
Somehow, that worked for about three months. This year they tried essentially the same thing with Jordan Schafer, and it worked for about one game. Jason Heyward might be, right now, a better hitter than Jeff Francoeur ever has been or will be. He's a big right fielder, and while the Braves presumably don't want to rush him to the majors -- as they obviously did with Francoeur and Schafer -- their current right fielders have been doing well enough. Granted, left fielder Garret Anderson's been a disaster lately ... but then again, if the Braves were going to address that deficiency, they probably would have done it months ago.
Management has done a fine job addressing the Braves' needs this season, replacing Schafer with Nate McLouth and Kelly Johnson with Martin Prado, and picking up Ryan Church to team with Matt Diaz in right field. But they're now so far out of contention that sticking with Anderson for six months will merit hardly a footnote.
Next season will come soon enough. So will Jason Heyward.