Javier Baez started the 2012 season at extended spring training, not breaking camp when the team left for Peoria. On Tuesday night, less than two seasons removed, the 21-year-old makes his debut for the Cubs in Colorado.
On Monday, the Cubs confirmed the news that broke on twitter when his brother announced Javy had been promoted to Chicago. Bruce Levine of 670 WSCR confirmed the tweet and the social media celebration followed.
Put aside the “experts” and fans opinion, the Cubs front office decided the time was now to promote the Cubs’ top prospect. Baez went 2-3 last night in Omaha with two homers, two walks, and was called out on a questionable pitch in his final at-bat.
His AAA season was a true test of his character and according to Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer, a good learning experience. Baez hit .151/.248/.280 over his first 25 games with 38 strikeouts. He was chasing breaking pitches out of the zone and AAA hurlers kept feeding him. Despite his struggles at the plate the rest of his game didn’t suffer, improving his defense at short, helping win games with his base running, and becoming the defensive leader on the infield.
His plate discipline improved and so did the results at the plate, batting .297/.349/.590 with 20 HR and 69 RBI over his final 78 games, showing improvement each month. He finished his AAA season hitting .260/.323/.510 with 23 HR, 80 RBI, and 16 SB.
Splitting 2013 between High A Daytona and AA Tennessee, Baez established himself as one of top young players, hitting .282/.341/.578 with 37 homers, and led the minors with 111 RBI and 75 extra-base hits. He appeared near the top of most national prospects lists and was considered the Cubs top prospect heading into the 2014 season.
Baez was drafted in 2011 as the Cubs used their ninth pick to take the prep from Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. He signed late and played three games in Mesa and two in Boise his first pro year.
During the off-season, Theo Epstein was hired at the team’s president and young Baez stayed behind in Mesa as Marco Hernandez was the shortstop when the Peoria Chiefs opened their season. At the end of May, he was promoted to the Midwest League and hit .333/.383/.596 with 12 HR in 57 games. He spent the final month of the year in Daytona, but struggled, batting .188/.244/.400 in 23 games.
Baez also had a hard time adapting to AA pitching, hitting .220 (22-100) over his first 24 games but quickly figured it all out, with a slash line of .365/.406/.704 his final 29 games. So if you believe in trends, you could assume the youngster will struggle over the final two months of the season. I wouldn’t bet on it.
Baez has wowed scouts with his tremendous bat speed, but he’s more than a home run hitter. He sports a high baseball IQ, is an aggressive base runner, and continues to improve on the field, both physically and mentally. He’s going to strike out but the rest of his game makes up for what might be the only deficiency in his play.