Forget the 2013 season for a minute. That’s the sort of thing that impacts careers. Oftentimes, multiple careers. A fastball to the head ended Tony Conigliaro’s budding superstardom before it really got off the ground. It did essentially the same for Jack Hamilton, the guy that threw it. Neither player was the same afterwards. Of course we all hope for better results for both Heyward and Niese. Jeff Francoeur, god love him, took a fastball to the eye socket in the minors, and came back more or less intact a year later. So here’s to good hope and cheer. That said, the immediate question is how do you move forward in 2013.
The first option is obviously BJ Upton. Upton is by far the most talented OF on the roster outside of his brother and Heyward. He’s more talented than Jordan Schafer by factors. He’s more talented than Reed Johnson or Joey Terdoslavich. He’s a legitimate star caliber player at the Major League level who has had a terrible, terrible season this year. The first option for replacing Heyward is to reinsert BJ Upton into the lineup every night.
With BJ starting in CF regularly, you can swing your corner outfielders around by need and according to the starting pitcher. Obviously Justin Upton, the best offensive threat on the team outside of Brian McCann at this point, is going to start as long as his back isn’t bothering him. JUpton can play either LF or RF (though with nowhere near the defensive value of Heyward), so the only remaining question is “who plays the other corner?” For that, you should be looking at a platoon of two quad-A types; Jordan Schafer and Joey Terdoslavich.
Schafer fits most naturally into the suddenly vacated leadoff role, but he should only play against right handed starters. His 2013 splits:
v RHP: 313/405/461 (866 OPS)
v LHP: 105/150/105 (255 OPS)
There is no way Success! should ever see a meaningful PA against a southpaw. He simply can’t hit them.
Terdoslavich, on the other hand, has shown the opposite tendencies in his (very short) stint in the ML. Though he’s a switch hitter, he really has no business facing RHP. His splits 2013 ML splits:
v RHP: 216/293/297 (590 OPS)
v LHP: 357/526/429 (955 OPS)
There are obviously sample size issues involved with Terdoslavich’s ML numbers, and it bears noting that his 2013 minor league splits are completely the opposite.
v RHP: 319/360/573 (933 OPS)
v LHP: 256/347/390 (737 OPS)
There’s always the Evan Gattis option as the RH half of a platoon, should Terdoslavich falter. But Gattis has seriously struggled at the plate after a hot opening month or two, and he’s a much weaker defender in the OF than either of the other two. The OF defense is already taking a hit by replacing Heyward, a gold glover in RF, with Justin Upton, who is…not. I’d personally go with the better defense and keep Gattis on the bench as a backup catcher. This would also give the team a chance to see if Terdoslavich has any business on the post-season roster, or if he gets cut when Reed Johnson returns. I suspect, however, that Fredi runs the Bear out there more often than not.
At the end of the day, the question doesn’t really hinge on Heyward’s technical replacement in the OF, so much as it does on BJ Upton and Dan Uggla putting together something akin to a major league swing for the first time all year.