ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinal offense was a frustrating enigma in 2014. Though there were thrilling spikes in production, the corresponding nose dives kept the Birds constantly fighting for ground in a tight division race and demanded near-flawless performances from a taxed pitched staff.
Monday’s deal to bring Jason Heyward to St. Louis was designed to add fuel to lineup that was never able to reach cruising altitude last season.
The 25-year-old is a career .262 hitter, possessing the combination of power and speed that makes him an attractive piece for a team needing both.
“The one thing about Jason is he gives you flexibility,” Mozeliak said when discussing a possible lineup slot for Heyward and how manager Mike Matheny could use him. “I could imagine one, two or three. Obviously it just gives Mike some flexibility.”
Heyward has long been projected to be able to add muscle to a lineup, though his power numbers have been inconsistent over five seasons. Mozeliak, when asked to assess Heyward’s power potential, noted a recent change in the young hitter’s approach that was designed to cut down on strikeouts and led to diminished home run totals.
Heyward praised the GM’s observational skills, explaining his transition to leadoff man for the Braves forced him to rethink his at bats.
“For me it was a new thing. I was developed in the Braves organization as a three hitter,” he said. “When you succeed at batting third professionally, in the minor leagues and when you come up and that's what you're bred to do, when you have to make an adjustment on the fly at the major league level- it's hard enough as it is- but that's something that's very difficult.”
He explained the freedom afforded to power hitters is not a luxury he had at the top of the order. Where he used to be able to ignore the risk of a strikeout while focusing on driving the ball, he now had a responsibility to spark the offense.
“You're just trying to get on base and set the table. To me, that was the aspect that was new,” he said.
St. Louis has a proven leadoff man Matt Carpenter, and the improvement shown by Kolten Wong also makes him a candidate for the top of the order. The Cardinals would likely welcome a return to a power hitter’s approach for Heyward, given that shortstop Jhonny Peralta led the club (which finished last in the NL in home run totals) with 21 long balls.