There is probably no Cubs prospect (and I'll still call him one even though officially, he no longer qualifies, since he has too many big-league plate appearances) who's as polarizing as Javier Baez.
He plays defense well enough to be a big-league regular at second base, and probably shortstop or even third base. He has prodigious power; his spring-training home runs, at least, are legendary. One of them hit the scoreboard at Peoria Stadium; another cleared the scoreboard at HoHoKam Park and landed six cars deep in the parking lot, something HoHoKam regulars said they'd never seen before from anyone.
And then there's his rumored attitude. All players need confidence, but Baez appears to be cocky, beyond the cockiness of many athletes. As you can see in the photo above, he's got the MLB logo tattooed on the back of his neck, something he had done while he was still in high school. He's been said by some to be "uncoachable," and it seems clear to me, at least, that he needs some adjustments to his game so he won't strike out 250 times a year on a regular basis.
And then you remember that he's 22 years old and has had a pattern of struggling when he is promoted, and then after a time of adjustment, dominates the next level. The thing is, the major leagues are much more difficult to dominate than any of the minor-league levels where Baez has crushed the ball, even Triple-A, where he hit 23 home runs in 388 at-bats in 2014 -- but also struck out 130 times.
I've been trying to figure out who might be a comp for Baez. Could he turn in a few years as good as Mark Reynolds' peak? From 2008-2011 Reynolds averaged 32 home runs and 95 RBI... but hit .231/.329/.481 with an average of 208 strikeouts per year. Even with all the K's, that's productive.
Or could he be Pedro Alvarez? Alvarez, another No. 1 pick, powered his way through the minor leagues but struggled for a couple of years before having a breakout season in 2012. In 2012-13 he put up average numbers similar to Reynolds: 33 home runs, 92 RBI, .238/.307/.470, and averaged 183 K's over those years. In 2014 Alvarez wound up having some issues throwing at third base, was moved to first and then a foot injury ended his year prematurely.
Those numbers from Baez over a few seasons would certainly be useful, even with the low BA and high K totals. However, Baez's BA in 229 big-league PA was far lower than what either Reynolds or Alvarez did in their debut years, with a much higher K ratio.
As of now it appears, to me at least, that Baez will be the Cubs' second baseman on Opening Night unless he has a brutal spring. So the question is: what will he become? Will he need more time back in Triple-A? Does his future lie at second base, third base... or maybe included in a major trade?