After diagnosing two trades over the weekend that may impact the prospects more than the players moved, the Braves and Cardinals consummated a trade today sending Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for Shelby Miller and Minor League pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. This is much more fascinating not only in terms of the fantasy implications, but it gives a glimpse into how each team will further rebuild their rosters going forward. Both Heyward and Miller could be considered disappointments relative to their ADP’s entering 2014 drafts. Shelby Miller was the 23rd starting pitcher taken on average with an ADP of 111.4 but finished 141st on the ESPN player rater for all pitchers. Similarly, Jason Heyward had an ADP of 74 and was the 24th outfielder taken in drafts entering the season but finished 40th on the Player Rater at his position. Each player has his warts as their synopses below will highlight, so their values entering 2015 will be intriguing to say the least.
Jason Heyward goes to Busch:
It’s quote the anomaly trying to figure out Jason Heyward. One of the most famous quotes from revered fantasy expert Ron Shandler is “once a player displays a skill, he owns it.” Speaking to that quote, Heyward’s 2012 season of 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases has been teasing fantasy owners for the last two years. I drank the juice this past season and jumped up to get Heyward’s blend of power and speed with the thoughts he would hit atop the Braves lineup and produce a double-double stat line. While Heyward produced the double-digits in homers and steals, it was not what was anticipated.
Jason Heyward 2014: 149 G, 74 R, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 20 SB .271/.351/.384
In terms of ballpark effects, Heyward may benefit from the move away from Atlanta (21st) in runs to Busch (4th). However, the home run factor was in Atlanta’s advantage. On a positive note, all of Heyward’s homers from last year would have made it out of Busch:
It is difficult to predict what Heyward will do in the future. Will he grow or do we already know who he is? It appears that he has traded power for contact in his approach. Is this in relation to where he is hitting in the lineup or an overall change in his hitting philosophy? Over the last two seasons both his HR/FB% and SwStr% have been trending in the wrong direction:
Jason Heyward HR/FB %: 2012 – 16.9%, 2013 – 13%, 2014 – 6.5%
Jason Heyward SwStr%: 2012 – 11.2%, 2013 – 8.6%, 2014 – 7.6%
So he is swinging less but also hitting for less power. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Heyward’s average distance per home run was 394.2 feet last season with an average speed of 102.6 MPH off the bat. I find it hard to believe that he has peaked at only 25 but the Braves have decided to move him within a year of free agency. This will be a very big season to determine what Heyward’s value for fantasy is going forward. Here is Heyward’s spray chart and zone profile from 2014, one of the reasons I have not given up hope just yet:
Heyward is only one adjustment away from handling inside pitches. He should benefit greatly from new hitting coach Bill Mueller’s tutelage. I am not ready to give a forecast on his numbers for the season but if he hits second or lower in the order like fifth or sixth, we could see a return of his power. The precipitous drop in his HR/FB% from 2012 of 16.9 to last year’s 6.5% should correct some. His career HR/FB% is 13% and in line with his 2013 season. While Heyward is still a work in progress, this year may provide a buying opportunity.
Shelby Miller to the Braves:
The Braves were in obvious need of starting pitching, especially after both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen succumbed to Tommy John surgery last year. While Alex Wood and Julio Teheran stepped up, they had to rely on veterans such as Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana to get them through the year. Since it seems like the Braves were not willing to offer Jason Heyward a long-term contract, they traded him for what they really needed. Like Heyward, Shelby Miller may have worn out his stay in St. Louis. I still remember him being banished to the bullpen during the 2013 playoffs after winning 15 games in the regular season. There have been some variances in his curve ball speeds the last two seasons but he has won 25 games during that span. While his 2014 was disappointing, he still managed to win 10 games:
Shelby Miller 2014: 32 G, 183 IP, 10 W, 127/73 K/BB, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
On the surface, the numbers do not look terrible but in comparison to his rookie season he experienced a dramatic drop in strikeouts (169 in 2013 in 10 fewer innings). This can be attributed to his lack of third pitch. During his short career he has experimented with five different pitches but he relies on his fastball and curve 88% of the time. It is hard to throw your fastball by Major League hitters. Miller’s K/9 dropped from 8.8 in 2013 to 6.3 in 2014 along with his SwStr% dropping from 9 in 2013 to 7 last year. Unless he can develop a third pitch, these trends may continue.
It appears that he is getting more comfortable with a cutter especially against right-handed batters. In fact, his batting average against with the pitch is only .241. This will be key since hitters only produce a .234 batting average against his fastball and .231 versus his curve. The trouble lies in getting into predictable counts and putting runners on base. In 2013 Miller only allowed 57 walks but that number jumped to 73 in 2014. If Atlanta can help Miller develop a third pitch, then he will be a nice sleeper. He is one player I will be watching during Spring Training to see if he can harness that extra pitch in his arsenal. If not I will not be drafting him, even at the discount.
This trade is very interesting for both teams as sometimes all a player needs in his development is a change in scenery. The upcoming 2015 season will be very telling in both Heyward and Miller’s values going forward.
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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!