Beware of the over-hyped rookie

Jason Heyward has has a career minor league OPS of .899 over 238 games.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You see the same thing every year with at least one rookie - more media-hype than seems possible for a mere mortal. Last year, that guy was Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (ranked eighth in preseason despite not being called up until May 29th) and the leading candidate for "over-hyped rookie" in 2010 is Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward.

Nothing against either guy, they are going to be very good pros, it's just that when the "media hype-machine" gets going, you'll think Heyward is a cross between Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth.

2010 Minor League Baseball Analyst by Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney says about him, "he has as much raw talent as any prospect in baseball."

Here is the MLB.com description, "Heyward has a big, strong and athletic frame and an excellent left-handed swing with plus power potential. An advanced approach at the plate is highlighted by excellent patience. He runs well, especially for his size, and is an excellent baserunner. A strong outfielder with an above-average arm, he can play well in right. His work ethic and attitude are huge advantages."

Apparently he can also "leap tall building in a single bound" and single-handedly lead your team to a fantasy championship.

While it is true that Heyward has hit very well so far, it is also true that it has been against minor league pitching.

In three minor league seasons ranging from the rookie league through the Braves' AAA team in Gwinnett, Heyward has batted a combined .318 with 29 HR and 125 RBI in 238 games. He has a minor league OPS of .899.

However, history is riddled with "superstar" minor leaguers who for some reason never made the transition to become a superstar professional. Sometimes it's because they couldn't catch up to big league pitching and sometimes the distractions of being a major leaguer got in the way of their progress.

Perhaps you remember a left-handed hitting first baseman by the name of Roberto Petagine. He was a three-time All-Star (1996-1998) in AAA and he won the International League's MVP Award in back-to-back years. Although he played with six MLB clubs and two Japanese teams, he never made it to the level expected.

Or how about Yankees minor league star, Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens?

Signed in 1985, Meulens made a big splash by hitting .300 with 28 HR and 103 RBI for Prince William. By 1990 he was at AAA Columbus and hit .285 with 26 HR and 96 RBI and was the International League MVP. With the Yankees, however, he could never live up to the hype. His career batting average was .220 with a total of 15 HRs in seven seasons.

In 2003, Chicago White Sox prospect Joe Borchard was ranked No.4 in all of minor league baseball. His six-year career amounted to a .205 batting average with 26 HR and 77 RBI.

Last year, along with Wieters, Florida outfielder Cameron Maybin got some early fantasy attention, but couldn't hold onto his starting job and lost all value.

Only time will tell with Heyward.

It looks like unless he completely collapses over the final three weeks of spring training, Heyward will start the season with the "big club." He's looked solid so far, going 6-for-14 (.429) with a homer, four RBIs and six walks.

In my most recent draft Heyward was selected in the 16th round. Obviously, in keeper leagues he'll be picked much higher, around the same time as Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

Just remember, Heyward won't even be 21-years-old until August and potential is just a future promise, not a guarantee.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.