Atlanta, GA - From the Myrtle Beach Pelicans:
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The way former Pelicans phenom Jason Heyward has burst upon the Major League Baseball scene this spring training, a decision to leave him off the Atlanta Braves Opening Day roster would have raised more than a few eyebrows around the game.
Any confusion has been quelled. Friday, the Braves officially announced what many already assumed: Heyward will open the 2010 season at the major league level.
In a Friday morning meeting with Braves manager Bobby Cox, Heyward was officially informed that his days of minor league bus rides and the number 71 on the back of his jersey are nearing an exciting end. One of the most highly-anticipated debuts in baseball will come to fruition on April 5 when Heyward starts for the Braves in right field against the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day at Turner Field.
"I said, 'I'm delighted to tell you that you're on the team, Jason, simply because it makes us a better team,'" Cox told reporters in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on Friday. "I would've had to be blind not to see what he showed."
In 16 spring training games with the Braves, Heyward has batted .366 with four doubles, a home run, and five runs batted in. His .500 on-base percentage and .537 slugging percentage are good for a Pujols-esque 1.037 OPS.
Heyward spent 49 games in a Pelicans uniform in 2009 and batted .296 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI before his early-July promotion to Double-A Mississippi.
The McDonough, GA, native joined Myrtle Beach as a highly-touted 19-year-old, named the second-best prospect in the Braves' organization entering 2009 by Baseball America and the best in the Atlanta system by MLB.com. By midseason, BA had named Heyward the top prospect in all of Minor League Baseball.
That accolade held. After his promotion to Mississippi, the 2007 first round draft pick surged, batting above-.400 until more than a month into his Double-A tenure. Through 47 Southern League games, Heyward batted .352 with seven home runs, 30 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.057. Shortly after his 20th birthday, Heyward was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A where he ended his 2009 campaign.
Baseball America and USA Today each named Heyward their Minor League Player of the Year for '09.