Spring Training Preview: Right Field

Is Jason Heyward going to be the new right fielder?

Jason Heyward is the consensus top prospect in the game of baseball. But is he ready, at the age of 20, to take on a prominent role for the Atlanta Braves?

Let's hope so. The Braves need a prominent player in right field after the Jeff Francoeur experiment came to a screeching halt last July.

The Atlanta front office could have gone out and signed a veteran player to keep the spot warm until Heyward is ready, as they did at first base with the signing of Troy Glaus, but they didn't.

That in itself makes you know they are serious about Heyward getting a full shot at being the starting right fielder on Opening Day.

Heyward is a special talent. How often do you see a legit five-tool player? Not often. And Heyward is just that.

The Braves feel they can push him because of his maturity. Heyward is not a player that will collapse in the pressure of being a 20-year-old rookie. He's very level-headed, and Heyward is not intimidated by what's on the horizon.

So barring a catastrophe in March, Heyward will be the starting right fielder on Opening Day.

If something happens that Heyward is not ready, or if he struggles once the season starts and the Braves need to back him down a bit, there are several other candidates to play the position.

Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera, slated to split time in left, can both play right field. Also, Eric Hinske and Omar Infante, the two main infield reserves, can also play the position.

But don't expect any problems. It's instead simply going to be a pleasure to watch the dawn of a new era in right field. The Braves have hit the jackpot with Jason Heyward, and it's going to be fun to see how he will help this team in 2010.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.

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