Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler are both young RFs with a ton of potential. Heyward seems to be on the cusp of truly breaking out every year and Soler is primed to break out after an impressive summer call up. In keeper leagues I feel the debate is closer, but let me go over who I think is a better pick.
ESPN Keeper Rankings: 45
Razzball Keeper Rankings: 41
Fantasy Pros: 66
ESPN Keeper Rankings: 84
Razzball Keeper Rankings: Unranked or <59
Fantasy Pros: 85
ESPN has Soler all the way down at 145 in redraft leagues while Yahoo has him as high as 78. I always felt ESPN rankings were lousy and Yahoo rankings overestimated rookies, so I’d side with Razzball’s ranking of Soler at 98. All the rankings have Heyward as the clear winner between the two because he’s a known commodity, but I think the debate is much closer with keeper rankings. I was finally done with Heyward last year, but then he just had to be traded to the Cardinals and spark my interests again. The kid’s only 25 and he’s been around for 5 years, but his stats are all over the place. Soler will be part of a Cubs team that looks to improve quickly and there seem to be a lot of successful Cuban players recently, he looks like the next one to break out.
The biggest difference between the two seem to be stolen bases. Heyward stole 20 bases last year, but only 2 the year prior. His SBs are all over the place, I know he can steal 20 bases, but the question is if. St. Louis is usually towards the bottom in SB attempts, they were in the bottom 3 for the past 2 years, but Atlanta isn’t too aggressive on the base paths either. Meanwhile Soler had 1 SB during his brief 24 game appearance last year, didn’t steal too many bases in the minors, and isn’t projected to steal too much in the majors. I’m giving a strong edge Heyward here.
Runs and Rbis
Heyward will most likely bat 2nd for a Cardinals team that’s better offensively than the Braves, but they aren’t that much better. I’m sure having Matt Carpenter atop the order is more useful than BJ Upton, but the Cardinals weren’t too impressive last year. By all accounts the Cardinals don’t seem to want Heyward to bat lead off and would prefer to have him focus on unlocking his power potential, sounds good to me. Soler is projected to bat 4th for the Cubbies and will have Anthony Rizzo in front of him. Kris Bryant could supplant Soler in the clean up spot down the line, but the furthest I can see him dropping in the order is 5th. He only batted 3rd, 4th, and 5th last year and overall I expect even production from this year.
Soler is 6’4 242lb 23 year old. I think Yasiel Puig is his best comparison at 6’3 2451b and 24 years old. Puig never hit over 20 HRs at the MLB level, but Soler did have a much higher ISO in the minor leagues so scouts have been projecting higher HR totals for him than Puig. Plus Wrigley is a better hitters park than Dodger Stadium. Heyward is 6’5 240lb 25 year old and hit 27 HRs in 2012, but hasn’t hit over 18 in any other year. His HR/FB ratio was the lowest it’s ever been at 6.5% last year, but everything else remained similar to his career norms. In a relatively healthy year Heyward only managed 11 HRs…Soler got half that in a fifth of the at bats. I’m giving the edge to Soler in the power department because the 27 HRs Heyward had in 2012 are looking like an outlier while Soler’s ISO was stellar in the minors and Wrigley is a better hitters park than Busch.
Heyward has never had a good batting average and it wouldn’t take much for Soler to beat him. Heyward walks more and strikes out less than Soler so overall I’m giving a slight edge to Soler in batting average and a slight edge in OBP to Heyward. Joe Maddon already doesn’t expect Soler to play the whole year, but Heyward hasn’t played an entire season his entire career. Health wise they’re even.
For the foreseeable future Soler is part of a young core of Cubs that look to be contenders for years while Heyward’s career is up in the air after his contract season. My gut tells me the Cardinals find a way to sign him, but depending where he signs could potential hurt his value. Soler displayed plus ISO in the minors and had 5 HRs in only 89 at bats, he could blossom into a consistent power hitter or blossom into nothing. Harper has 3 years in the majors and hasn’t made it over 22 HRs despite being herald as a once in a generation hitter. It takes time for players to develop and Soler could have years before he develops his. For every stud Cuban player there’s a ton that don’t make headline impact. Heyward has always struggled with lefties and he’ll need to overcome that hurdle before becoming one of the best players in baseball. He’s switching divisions, which could mean some adjustment time, but Atlanta and Busch Stadium are both pitchers parks so I’ll give that a wash. If Heyward doesn’t break out this year that’s it for me, I’m done making excuses for him. We’ve seen what he can do, maybe Soler can do better.
Honestly if Heyward wasn’t on the Cardinals I would have went with Soler in keeper leagues, but on the Cardinals I can easily see Heyward putting it all together for a magical year. I think Soler has a higher upside and Heyward is starting to look dangerously close to Justin Upton, a great player that does’t quite make it to perennial MVP candidate. I can easily see these two players being drafted in the 2nd round next year and managers winning their fantasy leagues with them this year, but I can also easily see them failing and people oogling over their potential breakouts next year anyway. Small samples aren’t reliable enough and although Heyward’s large sample size isn’t as helpful at predicting future production as some players he’s just 25 and I’m giving him the slight edge over Soler.