Jason Heyward has a lot of talent, there is no doubting that. As a rookie in 2010, he had a .393 on-base percentage and a .456 slugging percentage while finishing as the runner-up to Buster Posey for Rookie of the Year honors. He missed 20 games with various minor injuries but attempted to play through a thumb injury that sapped his power for much of June and July, which probably cost him the trophy.

Entering Spring Training this season, Heyward said his thumb wasn’t completely healed but he felt confident his swing would no longer be effected. Throughout Spring Training he put on his usual batting practice show illustrating the unmatched raw power he possesses and it appeared everything was back to normal for Heyward.

Through his first 27 games of the season, Heyward had a hitting line of .263/.358/.526 including seven home runs but was batting a head-scratching sixth in the order for most of those games, so he only parlayed those numbers into just 14 runs batted in.

Over the past 10 games, however, Heyward has gone into a major slide. His numbers since April 30 are 3-for-32 (.094) with no home runs, no runs batted in, 13 strikeouts and only four walks. His lack of production led to whispers throughout Braves Country that Heyward was once again battling an injury.

Those worries were proven true this week when Heyward admitted he has been dealing with shoulder issues since spring training that had intensified in recent weeks. For a Braves team that was finally starting to find its hitting stride after struggling mightily throughout April, this was the last thing they wanted to hear.

Fortunately, the MRI showed no structural damage and just inflammation as the source of the pain, dodging a major bullet. But the fact remained Heyward was playing through another injury and hurting the team in the process.

The question becomes, will Heyward ever become the franchise building block the Braves were counting on as he waltzed through the minors or will his injuries limit him to being a great player in spurts, but never consistently elite?

It all goes back to the well-documented stories of his childhood when his father would rush home from work every day and take him to a game or practice. By the time Heyward reached the major leagues at age 20, he had played around 200 games per year for over a decade. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that means Heyward will have played about 2,500 games before his 22nd birthday, which has undoubtedly taken a toll on his body.

As we have learned in his first two seasons in the major leagues, he attempts to play through injuries as well, so who knows how many injuries only he knows about. Whether he ever becomes a player who plays 155 games per season or not, you have wonder how long his body is going to hold up.

When he is healthy, Heyward has proven he is among the game’s best young players. He put up a 4.9 wins above replacement (WAR) last season, good enough for 30th in the majors and had a 4.82 win probability added (WPA), which ranked sixth among hitters. He was also a plus defender.

Following his recent slump though, Heyward’s numbers are down across the board. Although some of that is driven by his low batting average on balls in play (BABIP), his walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up making him far less valuable in the first quarter of this season than he was in his rookie campaign.

Braves fans are hoping a few days of rest will allow Heyward to get as close to 100 percent as possible, but will it linger? Will it continue effect his swing? Will a new injury pop up? These are the questions Braves fans will continue to ask, especially when Heyward is slumping.

As the Braves offense has learned in recent years with Chipper Jones leading the way, it is hard to produce runs consistently when your biggest offensive threat is prone to injuries.

A lot was made of Heyward’s appearance when he arrived last season. His face made him seem closer to 30 than 20, and through his first year and a bit of major league time, his body is now fighting back like it is approaching 32 rather than 22.

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