SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I still haven't seen the Cubs win this spring, since I was at the morning "B" game and didn't go to Maryvale to see the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers Monday afternoon, their first victory of 2014.
Javier Baez crushed a monstrous home run off Marco Estrada, which led to this tweet:
Three ABs are enough to convince me that Javier Baez is a beast. Even his groundouts to second base are loud.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 3, 2014
I mean, the guy is impressing Cubs' opponents' beat writers. (McCalvy works for brewers.com, their equivalent of Carrie Muskat.)
So, I ask you the question: Should the Cubs push Javier Baez to learn third base this spring, and if he hits well enough, give him the third-base job on Opening Day? Yes, I realize this would accelerate him past what Theo & Co. usually want -- 500 or so at-bats at Triple-A. You'd probably also suffer defensively, as Baez likely needs work on that at Triple-A, and putting him in the major leagues at an unfamiliar position isn't really fair to him or the team.
But that bat. Oh, man, that bat. Baez also singled, and as McCalvy tweeted, hit a rocket of a groundout to second base.
There's another thing that putting Baez in the major leagues this year would accomplish. That would be to give a bit of buzz to the fanbase, to put perhaps the system's most exciting player on display at Wrigley Field. Yes, he'd strike out a lot. Yes, he might make an inordinate number of errors. But... oh, man, that bat. I'm not even concerned about the "service time" issue that you will undoubtedly bring up. Baez, I believe, is good enough that no matter when he gets to the big leagues, he will be signed to a long-term extension before he even hits arbitration.
There's going to be additional playing time for Baez over the next week to 10 days, as that's how long Starlin Castro is going to be out with the supposed "minor" hamstring issue he suffered during Sunday's game. Didn't we see this last year?
Anyway, I'm not necessarily saying yes... but then again, I think the question deserves to be asked. I feel compelled to point out that Ryne Sandberg, when he first came to the big leagues with the Cubs, was put at third base for a year, despite having played just four games there in the minor leagues, because the Cubs had Larry Bowa, who came over with Sandberg from the Phillies, at shortstop (Ryno's natural position) and... Bump Wills at second base. Sounds funny now, right? Sandberg bumped from second base for... Bump Wills?
Yes, yes, I know. Sandberg was, even then, considered to be a fine defensive player and Baez's defensive game needs work. Lots of work.
But oh, man. That bat.
As far as the rest of this game: Eric Jokisch (whose name, we learned today, is pronounced "yo-kisch") threw three hitless innings, and he helped his case for being oee of the first injury replacements. He'll be in the rotation at Iowa. The rest of the staff gave up just five hits and two runs over six innings, a nice enough performance, and the winning runs were driven in by Walter Ibarra. Ibarra has spent seven years in the Yankees organization and seems like a good organizational guy, since he has split time at multiple levels in five of his eight pro seasons. So, while he might be playing at Iowa this year, this kind of performance is likely going to be a highlight for him.
Luis Valbuena had an RBI single and John Baker had two hits, including an RBI double.
Finally, this game was one of the first scheduled for a test of the new replay-review system. Naturally, no plays required challenges or other reviews, so we'll have to wait for the next test day to find out.
Tuesday, the Cubs return to Cubs Park to face the Athletics. Kyle Hendricks gets the start against Oakland's Tommy Milone.