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Jason Heyward - 2015 Fantasy Baseball Star?

Understandably Obsessed?

It’s a tradition like no other. No, I am not referring to the start of the baseball year. I am talking about my uncontrollable obsession with drafting Jason Heyward.

JHey was an enigma during his tenure with Atlanta, showing flashes of his full potential mixed in long stretches of disappointment. Now that he is in St. Louis as the key piece of the Shelby Miller trade, his time has come to finally put it all together.

Make no mistake, it's good that Heyward is gone from Atlanta. The Braves haven’t had a legitimate leadoff hitter since Michael Bourn, which led to Heyward batting first for most of 2014. This isn't to say he wasn't a solid leadoff hitter; he has a lifetime .282/.357/.431 line when batting 1st. The issue is it limits his run producing potential and Atlanta was not a fan of those last year (29th in Runs). He has only topped 70 RBI and 80 runs twice in his career, and neither has occurred since 2012 (guess who was still with Atlanta? Bourn). In St. Louis he won’t have to fill that role with Matt Carpenter solidified in the leadoff spot.

It's speculated that Heyward will bat anywhere from second to fifth in the order. I tend to lean on information from the coach himself, and Matheny has stated he would like to have Heyward hitting second. His high career OBP (.351) is well suited to this spot. With protection in the form of Matt Holliday and Matt Adams, Heyward should see good pitches. He may not reach the 80 RBI plateau, but he should eclipse 90 runs and 20 SB with ease.

Heyward is in a contract-year for St. Louis; a key reason why Atlanta let him go this offseason. He is projected to secure a contract in the $150-$200M range. He's arguably the best right fielder in baseball. His elite defense has led to two Gold Glove awards. Aside from B.J. Upton, most players have to put together quality offensive numbers to earn their free agent payday. Heyward has extra motivation to prove the Braves made the wrong choice.

The prospect of playoff baseball should invigorate Heyward. I tend to draft players who I am confident will be part of teams with meaningful games in September. This results in fewer rest days at the end of the year when you need your guys most in H2H playoff leagues. Eliminated teams tend to take it easy on their best veterans as they give fringy players a chance to earn a role in the next season.

In Summary

Heyward is the 17th ranked outfielder according to RotoBaller’s preseason rankings, which is higher than I anticipated. That said, he has the best chance to jump into the top 10 in contrast to hitters in that range (Jayson Werth, J.D. Martinez, Matt Kemp, Yoenis Cespedes) thanks to his ability to produce power and stolen bases in a strong lineup. He is a great pick after the sixth round, and he can be a focal point to your success in 2015.