MIAMI – Since they signed him in 2016, the Cubs have been waiting for one of their biggest free agents in the current era to find his way at the plate.
While his fielding has been as strong as they’d hoped, Jason Heyward has struggled to keep his average closer to .300 than .250. But the fourth year may be the charm for the right fielder who is enjoying arguably the strongest start of his major league career.
After Monday’s game against the Marlins, one in which he had a pair of walks in three at-bats, Heyward is hitting .349 on the season with four homers and 10 RBI. It is easily his best start since joining the club before the 2016 season.
Most of that damage has come in the month of April – excluding the first three games of the season in Texas – when Heyward is hitting .367 with all four of the homers and 7 RBI. He’s been one of the bright spots in what has been a Cubs start with more ups than downs in 2019. And it’s been a major departure from his usual slow first months with the club.
In his first season of 2016, he hit on .224 in April, and while he rose that to .279 in 2017, it slipped back down to .239 in 2018. Since his career started in 2010, Heyward has never hit .300 after the first month of the season, with his average in 2017 and his .273 average in Atlanta in 2012 being his best starts to a season.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the start is Heyward’s power, which has been absent for a majority of his tenure with the clubs. He’s already got four homers through April 15, which is better than his previous first month total of three back in 2017. He’s halfway to his total from last year (8) and over a third of the way to his Cubs-best of 11 homers in 2017. Heyward’s career-high came with the Braves in 2012 when he hit 27.
It is too early to determine if Heyward’s fast start will lead to the big offensive year that many would have hoped for when he signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs before the 2016 season. But the fact that he’s shown production in a number of different areas at a time when he usually hasn’t has given fans some high hopes for Heyward as the 2019 season begins.