Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward famously struggled at the plate in his first season on the North Side. Fresh off signing a $184 million contract, Heyward hit just .230/.306/.325, which amounted to a career-worst OPS+ of 70. To be sure, Heyward was as brilliant as ever in the field and added some value on the bases, but it wasn't enough to make up for his production deficits with the bat.
Heyward has long struggled with his swing, but when he's producing at an acceptable level -- which he's done for most of his career -- he's an elite overall performer. Suffice it to say, the champion Cubs are hoping to get him back to being just that in 2017.
All of that brings us to this, which is the new-look Heyward at the plate. Let's have a look at his tuned-up swing courtesy of this Instagram post by Cubs mental skills coordinator and former big-league outfielder Darnell McDonald:
That looks pretty good, but a side-by-side comparison with last season's swing is in order ...
Compared to his 2016 swing, Heyward appears to have a somewhat more pronounced stride, a higher finish and a stronger follow-through. While the angles you see above aren't perfectly matched, his front side appears to be a bit more open now. The big difference, though, is the bat angle. He's holding the barrel more upright now, which probably cuts down on his "bat wrap" during the loading phase. Heyward's bat looked painfully slow during the World Series especially, and wrapping the bat around his back as he moved toward the ball may have played a role in that.
The more vertical bat orientation allows him to be in this position as he prepares to address the ball:
I'm no hitting coach, but in the more recent swing he's in a better position to fire his hands, which probably leads to a quicker bat through the hitting zone.
Heyward has long been a tinkerer, even by the tinkering-heavy standards of big-league hitters. In the past, it's typically yielded good results. It of course remains to be seen whether these latest changes stick and yield better results, but Heyward obviously isn't satisfied with his 2016 bestowals. For the Cubs, that's a good thing.
(h/t: The Score)