As reported a few hours ago by our own Robert Murray, Jason Heyward's jaw was broken in two places when he was hit by Jonathan Niese fastball today. Jason is due for surgery tomorrow on his fractured jaw back in Atlanta.
But what exactly does this mean for the Braves? They have already had 6 season ending surgeries this season, and despite it all, they have MLB's best record. But Heyward had finally been solidifying himself in the lead-off spot for Atlanta. They had been trying to get Andrelton Simmons in that role after Braves watched Michael Bourn leave for Cleveland this offseason, but Jason just took off when this all began.
Heyward as a leadoff hitter hit .366 (30-for-82) with 6 doubles, 5 homers, .429 OBP and .622 slugging percentage.
In 64 games since June 2nd, Heyward hit .301 with 27 extra-base hits (11 homers), 43 runs, 29 knocked in and .500+ slugging percentage. Hit .366 with 6 doubles, 5 homers, 15 RBI's, 1.052 OPS in past 21 games before Wednesday, including 17 wins.
And it's not just about offense. Heyward's 64 Defensive Runs Saved in right field since 2010 is second most in all of MLB to Brendan Ryan's 70. No other right fielder even has 40 in that span.
So how do you replace that?
B.J. Upton has struggled this season to put it lightly after signing a $75.25 million, 5-year deal in the offseason. Upton was coming off a good road trip to Philadelphia and Washington in early August where he hit .476 (10-for-21) over a five-game hitting streak.
Upton is hitless in 24 at bats since a four-hit game versus Nationals on August 7th. He's 0-for-the-last-two weeks. For the season, Upton is hitting .096 (7-for-73) with runners in scoring position, worst in the majors among qualified players. Overall, his average dropped to .186, which is down from a season-high .198.
Luckily, he has been nothing but a man of maturity and professionalism.
"I'm just rolling with it," Upton said on Braves.com. "If I come in and I'm in the lineup, I'm in there. If I'm not, then I'm not. I really don't have an argument. What's my argument? He's going to play who he wants to play and that's fine with me, as long as we win. I'm going to support my teammates. We all have the same goal, and that is to win a championship, get a ring."
So now with the need to play him every day, that means Jordan Schafer will probably move to Heyward's spot in the outfield, and the lineup. B.J. Upton was held out of the lineup in favor of Schafer four times in six games before Sunday. But now it's the moment for them to play full-time together.
Schafer has been a model of consistency, hitting .291 with a team-leading 13 stolen bases while playing part time and missing a month with a broken ankle. He also makes the minimum of $512,500.
One thing it's safe to say is, the Braves contain a lot of depth, moreso than most teams. I believe they will keep rolling, and welcome J-Hey back in October for one of the most anticipated Braves playoff runs in a long time.
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