clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Can We Expect From Javier Baez?

Javier Baez is at last going to be a Chicago Cub. What are we going to see from him?

Dylan Heuer

Javier Baez, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, will make his major-league debut Tuesday in Colorado as the Cubs take on the Rockies.

This is a good way to break in a prospect, I think -- the Cubs did the same with Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks, had them make their major-league debut on the road, away from the Chicago media (except for beat writers) and the expectations of fans.

Baez, who won't turn 22 until December, is hitting .260/.323/.510 with 24 doubles, two triples, 23 home runs, 80 RBI and 16 stolen bases at Triple-A Iowa. Those are very good numbers for someone who is one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League, and they are even better when you look at his splits:

This has been Baez's pattern at every level in his professional career -- he struggles at first, then once he gets accustomed to the league and the pitching, he dominates, especially for power. Particularly impressive are the seven home runs in just 59 at-bats while playing second base, and he's almost certainly going to become the Cubs' second baseman for the rest of 2014, with Alcantara moving to center field.

Since July 1, Baez has hit .300/.360/.675 with nine doubles and 12 home runs in 120 at-bats. Just as he did by crushing pitching in the Florida State League in 2013, forcing a mid-season promotion to Double-A Tennessee, it's clear that Baez is ready to face big-league pitching, after 434 plate appearances in Triple-A.

What will we see? I've seen Baez play quite a number of spring-training games the last two seasons. There are times he looks lost at the plate and I wouldn't be surprised to see him have games when he strikes out three times in four at-bats. There are other times when he crushes mammoth home runs, such as the one he hit off the scoreboard at Peoria Stadium in a spring-training game against the Mariners. That was off a major-league pitcher, too, Randy Wolf (granted, Wolf is just about at the end of the line, having been in five different organizations this year). Some commentators this past spring were saying, "Even his outs are hard-hit rockets."

It's strictly coincidental that this recall, coming soon after the Cubs retooled again with their trade last week, will result in Javy's major-league debut being at Coors Field -- just a scheduling coincidence. That said, it's a perfect place for Baez to possibly hit a moon-shot home run or two before he comes to Wrigley Field Friday when the Cubs open a series against the Tampa Bay Rays (who have a much better pitching staff than the Rockies).

Baez hasn't played that many games at second base, but he ought to be able to handle it well enough. If necessary, Alcantara could move to 2B in the late innings for defensive purposes to replace Baez, at least early on while Javy is still learning the position.

I imagine the strikeouts will frustrate us at times. The home runs will thrill us -- in addition to the rocket he hit in Peoria last spring, he hit one over the scoreboard at HoHoKam Park in Mesa in spring 2013 that landed six cars deep in the parking lot, probably close to a 500-foot blast, the longest any of us who were longtime HoHoKam regulars can remember there.

Welcome to Chicago, Javier Baez. I'm glad Theo & Co. are beginning to sprinkle prospects into the Cubs' major-league lineup; it's time to start producing the fruits of this farm system -- and please, give Jim Hendry a tiny bit of credit for this one, as Baez was his last No. 1 pick. I'd imagine Jorge Soler is next, probably in September. It's time for some hope, some optimism, some winning, to begin.