Powell: Another Spring, Another Swing Adjustment For The Cubs’ Jason Heyward

2018 Cubs Spring Training Home Opener At Sloan Park. (WGN Radio)

By Kevin Powell

MESA, Ariz. – This time last year, all eyes were on Jason Heyward’s swing. The $184 million dollar man posted a dismal .631 OPS in his first year with the Cubs after signing the nine-figure contract. Fans weren’t happy.

An inspiring Game 7 rain delay speech earned Heyward some points with the Cubs’ fan base, but that didn’t mean the baseball world wasn’t keeping a close watch when the team opened camp in 2017.

Here are a few headlines from last spring:

  • “Joe Maddon impressed with Jason Heyward’s modified swing” – Chicago Tribune
  • “Cubs’ Jason Heyward rebuilds his swing from ground up” – SI.com
  • “Jason Heyward trying to get in the zone with new swing” – NBC Sports

And now, in 2018, more talk of  a “new” swing.

“Well, I’m here to tell you, I’m watching his [batting practice] and I really like it a lot,” manager Joe Maddon said before their Cactus League home opener. “Every year he seems to make a little bit of an adjustment. The one right now, if we can take it into the game, it’s going to be very, very interesting to watch.”

It’s like a broken record. Every year there’s an ‘adjustment’ or ‘tweak’ to his swing. This spring, Maddon says he’s seen more power and pop off Heyward’s bat.

“He’s doing some nice work,” Maddon said. “He and Chili (Davis) did some nice work this past winter that’s showing up already in batting practice, that I’ve not seen in the past.”

This is pretty much exactly what we heard last spring. His new swing produced these numbers in 2017:

April: .279/.340/.407

May: .222/.300/.407

June: .259/.290/.379

July: .257/.313/.419

August: .262/.330/.298

September: .257/.360/.432

His final end of season slash line was .259/.326/.389.

OK. Better than his disastrous 2016. But not great. Also, keep in mind he was dealing with a couple nagging hand injuries throughout the year.

But he’s still not the player many hoped for when he signed his hefty contract a couple years ago. His defense? Outstanding. He basically shuts down right field. But his offense needs to be better.

Maybe this year is different. Maddon did say he thinks Heyward appears to be more comfortable and relaxed this spring.

“When you sign those large contracts as a free agent and you arrive somewhere new, it’s a tough adjustment. And being a human being, you have to give him some time.”

Maddon says the story may sound the same, but insists that Heyward does looks better.

“I’ve seen him in [batting practice] last year and the year before, it’s just different. It’s a different finish.”

A ‘different’ swing.

New spring, same story for Jason Heyward.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720