- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
It's really a shame that Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward had his jaw broken by a Jonathon Niese pitch Wednesday afternoon, because Heyward was playing well, and now his regular season is likely over. Oh, you won't find his name among the top 50 outfielders on the Player Rater for the season, but look for the past 30 days and there he is among the top 10. A top-30 pick in ESPN average live drafts, Heyward was awful in April, needed an emergency appendectomy, didn't hit when he initially returned, then missed more time because of a hamstring injury. And now he's done and should be dropped in all leagues.
Just don't let your final memory of Heyward be of his struggles this season, because there remains a bright future here. He's not likely to crack my top 10 outfielders or overall top 30 for next season, because it's pretty hard to tell if he's a base stealer or not, and that matters. But look what Heyward had done since June 1: .300 average, 11 home runs. And since the All-Star break he was hitting .323 with a .973 OPS and six home runs in 24 starts. As a leadoff hitter, he was exactly what the Braves needed, with a .349 batting average -- tops in baseball with a minimum 50 plate appearances -- and a .417 OBP in the role. Heyward is still a mere 24 years old. It's hard to tell if he will steal 20 bases or two in future seasons, and that alone is enough to move the likes of Carlos Gomez and Starling Marte ahead of him, but don't give up on the potential for 30-homer seasons and .300 batting averages in the future. He'll likely make my overall top 50 next season.