Where Does Chris Heisey Fit Into The Dodger’s Outfield Plans?
By Scott Andes
Chris Heisey is almost certainly not going to be the everyday centerfielder. However he is going to be a very useful backup off the bench.
The 2015 Dodgers are going to look entirely different than the 2014 Dodgers did. We’re entering a new era, and the new Dodger brain trust has put a lot of importance on defense. Namely they will be putting emphasis on up the middle defense.
The Dodger brass wanted to get better defensively, which was a major driving force behind the trades of Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon. It was replacing dollars and divas for defense and dingers. Or something similar to that affect.
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So where does outfielder Chris Heisey fit into the Dodger’s plans? The Dodgers acquired the 30-year old outfielder from the Reds back on December 2nd for pitcher Matt Magill. Centerfield is a most important position and the Dodgers wanted someone with depth and power to backup there. Heisey has been a part time player throughout his career, but has put up outstanding defensive numbers in all three outfield positions.
He’s played most of his career in left field (311 games) and has limited experience in centerfield (93 games), but can play in all three positions at a high level.
Total zone fielding runs above average have him rated at a +17 career clip in left field and a +8 in center field. Defensive runs saved shows him at a +17 overall in the outfield, and a +7 in left field, and +12 in right field. Centerfield ranks as his weakest position as defensive runs saved has pegged him at a -2 runs saved at centerfield.
Heisey doesn’t have a lot of range, (career range factor of 2.17) but seems to be able to take solid routes to balls which allows him to compensate for his lack of range.
While Heisey profiles slightly better in left field than he does in centerfield, he’s still a very solid outfielder all around, and capable of playing any of the outfield positions during the late innings.
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But does he have the chops to become the everyday centerfielder? He’s never played in more than 120 games during his five year MLB career. Last season he played in 119 gamed for the reds, but batted just .222 in 299 plate appearances.
His power probably appealed to the Dodgers as well. Heisey has hit 50 career home runs during his six MLB seasons. He’s never hit less than seven. His best year came in 2011 when he hit 18 in 308 plate appearances while playing in 120 games.
His splits suggest he hits better against right handers than he does against left handers. But we should look at how he’s done as a pinch-hitter and in late inning situations.
Heisey has a career slash line of .283/.335./587 with ten home runs and 35 runs batted in as a pinch-hitter. In 155 plate appearances Heisey has posted a .922 OPS off the bench.
He doesn’t walk a lot though. He’s averaged just 20 walks per season and a .300 OBP each year. He’s more of a feast or famine guy.
So you’ve got a power hitter who can pinch-hit and play all three outfield positions with ease. Not bad for the 2.16 million dollars the Dodgers will be playing him in 2015. If something happens to one of the other outfielders, he’ll be able to slide right in, even in centerfield. Not much of an arm though, but he can play centerfield well.
So where will Heisey fit into the Dodger’s plans in 2015? Pinch-hitter probably, backup outfielder, part-time power hitter, emergency center fielder, but not starting center fielder.
If Heisey is the starting centerfielder than that means something has gone terribly wrong, or someone has gotten hurt. But if that does happen you could certainly do worse than Chris Heisey.