Looking to 2012: Chris Heisey

One player that sparked plenty of talk during the 2011 season was Chris Heisey. On almost a daily basis, someone, somewhere was screaming (either through social media or while he/she was in their home) for Hi-C to see more playing time. The same held course after the 2011 season ended.

There was a belief (on those same fronts) that the left field job was his. Then, we heard word of Walt Jocketty looking for “another bat”. The collective sigh from Heisey fans created a gust of wind that would blow the top off GABP’s neighbor, US Bank Arena.

Well, here’s how Bill James (via Fangraphs) projects Heisey for 2012…and the good and the bad.

Stats and projections

G AB H HR R RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG BABIP
2011 120 279 71 18 44 50 19 78 6 1 .254 .309 .487 .283
2012 107 266 71 14 41 40 20 62 6 2 .267 .328 .485 .300

Positives

Image: Keith Allison via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. Chip on shoulder
Just from what you’ve already read, you could perceive that Heisey might well come into 2012 with a chip. Can’t say I blame him. After being named as the Reds’ Breakout Player for 2011, Heisey should feel he has proven himself to be a more than capable MLB player.

2. Combo of power and speed
Nice combo to have. The speed aspect doesn’t show itself as much in the bottom line number of stolen bases, but do not let that fool you. He’s only 7-for-10 in steals at the MLB level. As a minor leaguer, Heisey was an amazing 88-for-104 (85%).

3. Defensive flexibility
This might be the reason Heisey cannot crack in the starting lineup on an every game basis. He’s so valuable because he can play all three outfield positions. And he can play them well. He may not cover the ground that Drew Stubbs can. He may not have the arm that Jay Bruce possesses.

Before I go to the bad side of things…

Split G AB R H HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG BAbip
as LF 58 154 20 31 6 16 2 1 13 44 .201 .269 .370 .236
as CF 18 59 15 19 9 16 2 0 4 16 .322 .369 .780 .286
as RF 10 32 4 10 1 7 2 0 1 7 .313 .371 .469 .375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2012.

Negatives

1. Confidence
I realize this is a bit of a contradiction of #1 under positives, but you have to wonder what Heisey’s psyche is considering the recent signing of Ryan Ludwick. In the past, Heisey has said all the right things. I’m sure other teams have (or have had) interest in the 2006 17th round pick. We heard him linked to Colorado. That ought to mean something.

2. High strikeout rate
Yes, I know I recently covered this issue. One thing I didn’t include in that post (at least not all of it) is how Heisey has struggled so much with his whiffs and walks.

For Heisey, it’s kind of a weird thing in that Heisey has never held the opportunity to play on an everyday basis. To some, that’s why his SO% is so high and his BB% is drastically lower than Bruce or Stubbs. This could be a case where the numbers don’t fit. This was the subject of debate (on Twitter, of course) during last season.

Yes, I’m quoting myself…but for a reason. Within that post, I showed Heisey has an MLB career BB/K ratio of 0.26. His BB% is 6.6% while his SO% is 25.3%. In the minors, Those same numbers (respectively) are 0.60, 8.5% and 14.0%. I know. Minor league numbers don’t always translate to the bigs, but the severe increase in Heisey’s strikeout rate has sparked many a debate.

3. Limited playing time
This figures into the whole package. If Heisey cannot see some form of extended playing time, we may likely not see the true Chris Heisey. Some view that as a bad thing.

Wrap

Before 2011, the Reds brought in Fred Lewis. This year, Ludwick. I wonder if Heisey will ever receive a fair chance or even his due as an everyday MLB outfielder. But maybe the rub is that Heisey is so valuable as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter that Walt and Dusty know what they have with this roster spot. Plus, if you look at the second table, Heisey didn’t hit well when serving as the left fielder. Well, did the Reds have a left fielder that produced in 2011?

This subject will never go away. We will continue to see something along the lines of “Free Heisey” as long as he’s on the Reds roster. We’ll see it even more if Drew Stubbs should happen to struggle or not live up to the somewhat heightened expectations from Reds fans.

I’ll admit I wasn’t 100% comfortable with Heisey as the everyday left fielder. I also would not be surprised if Heisey took the everyday LF job as his own even with the Ludwick signing. Thing is, we know that won’t happen with “Mr. Veteran”…

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Topics: 2012 Player Projections, 2012 Projections, 2012 Reds Roster, Baseball, Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds, MLB

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