Hot Starts: Heyward versus Francoeur

Jason Heyward has just played his 30th game in the big leagues, and oh what a start it has been. A local kid rising to meet exceptional expectations; it kind of reminds me of another young phenom.

The Natural

So, I decided to compare Jason Heyward’s first 30 games to Jeff Francoeur’s first 30 games in the majors. And I was a bit surprised by what I found.

Jeff Francoeur 113 110 41 10 1 10 28 0 20 3 1 1 0.373 0.389 0.755 0.382 1.144
Jason Heyward 116 93 28 5 0 8 28 20 27 2 2 0 0.301 0.431 0.613 0.312 1.044

Despite Heyward’s hot start, Francoeur’s beginning was arguably hotter. Francoeur had more homers, a higher average, a higher slugging percentage, and a higher OPS. Does this foretell a similar demise for Heyward (Francoeur currently has a .705 OPS for the Mets)? While I won’t be surprised if Heyward’s numbers fall some, there are some distinct differences between the two players.

The first difference is obvious: walks. At the same point in their major league careers, Heyward has 20 walks; Francoeur wouldn’t get his first walk until four games later, and it was intentional. Heyward has the plate discipline that Francoeur still lacks.

And more important are their minor-league performances. Francoeur had decent, but unimpressive, minor-league numbers. Heyward had a better minor-league career, absolutely destroying the Double-A. Analyzing minor-league stats is tricky, so below I use the markers I employ for predicting major-league success from minor-league performance (see my upcoming book for justification): walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated power (age is also important). These stats are for their High-A and Double-A performances before they joined the big league team. (Stats below High-A do not predict success well. Heyward barely played in Triple-A, and I excluded Francoeur’s 2008 demotion.).

BB% K% Iso
Jason Heyward 11.75% 12.21% 0.231
Jeff Francoeur 5.31% 19.75% 0.205

So, despite their similar hot starts, Braves fans shouldn’t worry about Heyward becoming Francoeur. On the surface, the players’ hot starts may appear similar, but their skill sets are quite different. Heyward is already better than Francoeur will ever be, and his future looks very bright.

3 Responses “Hot Starts: Heyward versus Francoeur”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    Mets fans were very excited by Francoeur when he first came over and early this year when he got off to a hot start. They probably aren’t as excited now, but it’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of comment there about how much Francouer has regressed since the beginning of the season. He has been dreadful, but Mets fans seem more obsessed with David Wright’s lack of clutch hitting, for gods sake. I’m convinced that Francouer will always be overrated simply because he looks like a great player. I think fans like his shit-eating grin.

    The differences between Heyward and Francouer are obvious just on watching the two play even for an amateur observer. Who knows how good Heyward will turn out, but it’s almost certain he will be much better than Francouer.


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