Most of us assumed the worst earlier this week when Jason Heyward was struck in the face by a fastball. It seemed like a near certainty that his season was over. Now, a day after undergoing surgery that doesn’t quite appear to be as likely as we’d originally assumed and there’s a shred of optimism, despite the fact that the Atlanta Braves still will not provide a timeline. The team holds a substantial lead in the NL East and appear to be believe that Heyward will return in time for the playoffs, at the very latest.
Heyward’s surgery was performed yesterday in Atlanta, according to an AP report (via ESPN). He had a pair of plates inserted, one in each location where the jaw was fractured – along the right side and near his chin. He did not need to have his mouth wired shut.
Heyward’s hit .253/.347/.423 in 405 PA on the year. He’s seen a dip in his power production, but has also demonstrated some improved discipline at the plate (more walks, fewer strikeouts). He’s been stellar defensively on the year and had been one of the team’s hottest hitters of late, batting .345/.418/.586 over his last 21 games before the injury.
Atlanta’s dealt with a number of injuries on the year – losing Tim Hudson just weeks ago, losing Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty before the season even began – but they’ve been able to endure and hold onto their lead in the division. Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Braves should reach the playoffs and they’d certainly prefer to have Heyward in the lineup when they get there. Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis will likely see an increase in their playing time over the season’s final few weeks, but neither has the offensive potential (or defensive ability) that Heyward brings to the table.