Yet less than a year later, Heyward is now 0-for-2 when it comes to starting World Series games -- worse yet, these games have been hosted in an American League ballpark, meaning an extra lineup spot was available.
So what gives? Why is Heyward riding the pine during the biggest games of the year?
The simplest answer goes like this -- the Cubs are trying to win these games.
The more complex goes like this: Heyward is no longer considered to be part of the Cubs' best possible lineup. Though he remains a stellar defender, he's been a negative at the plate all season long. His line (.230/.306/.325) would be below-average among shortstops, and resulted in a 72 wRC+ -- an advanced metric that adjusts for ballpark and league.
How bad is that? It was the worst among the 21 qualifying right fielders -- oh, and the second-worst was Nomar Mazara ... who finished at 94. Heyward has since gone 2 for 28 in the postseason, ensuring his regular-season struggles wouldn't be easily forgotten.
As a result, Joe Maddon has turned to other outfielders for more offense. That meant Chris Coghlan in Game 1 and Jorge Soler in Game 2. You might question why Maddon is so willing to sacrifice his defense for offense -- especially since the Cubs have Kyle Schwarber's bat at their disposal -- but there's some reason to it. Namely, the Cleveland Indians had seven right-handed batters in the lineup against Jon Lester, which in turn meant Coghlan was unlikely to face a lot of well-struck, pulled line drives. Jake Arrieta, meanwhile, is the top groundball-coercer in Chicago's rotation, thereby potentially rendering moot the difference from Heyward to Soler.
Of course, none of this means Heyward is toast or won't see action -- though he'll likely be limited to plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers. It just means that you can see why Maddon and crew are treating this like a lost season from Heyward. For his, here's hoping 2017 will be more in line with the expectations.