Gushing scouting reports heralded him. In his first spring training, he sent pitches impossible distances. The balls he hit battered a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot and broke an assistant GM's window.
In his first major league at-bat, he lined a 2-0 fastball from Carlos Zambrano deep -- 414 feet deep -- over the right-center wall at Turner Field. He made the All-Star team as a 20-year-old. Surely, more laurels would follow. It was more than just the start to a career. It was a creation myth in the making.
Almost a year-and-a-half after that first home run, however, much of the shine has come off Jason Heyward.
Last season, Heyward ranked fourth in the National League in on-base percentage and authored an impressive WAR of 5.1. In 2011, he's cratered: a batting line of .220/.313/.393 and just 12 home runs in 355 plate appearances.
Probe deeper and things are similarly grim. Heyward is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to line-drive percentage (17.8 percent in 2010 to 13.9 percent in 2011), infield pop-ups (8.4 percent to 24.7 percent) and batting average on balls in play (.335 to .245). In the case of his declining BABIP, there's almost certainly some bad luck involved, but the remaining indicators are more troubling.