The Chicago Cubs head into the 2014 season with no expectations, as has been the case in the years since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken over the front office. However, this year comes with a bit of extra intrigue as the Cubs’ wealth of impact offensive prospects are nearing the point where they could be ready to make the jump to the big league level, and no prospect is gaining more attention at this point than shortstop prospect Javier Baez.
Baseball America recently released their list of the game’s top prospects, with Baez coming in at number five in all of baseball. That number may have been a touch higher had it not been for their decision to lump Masahiro Tanaka in with other prospects. Nonetheless, Baez is knocking on the door and is going to force the Cubs’ hand in calling him up at some point during the 2014 season.
At the same time, though, it remains to be seen when that might actually happen. It would seem that the Cubs have absolutely no intention of having him break camp with the team, as they would lose a year of service time if they were to add him to the roster that early. This was the thinking with Anthony Rizzo and will likely be the case when they’re ready to call up Kris Bryant at some point in the future as well.
Between High-A and Double-A last season, Baez cracked 37 home runs and knocked in 111. His wRC+ in Double-A, where he appeared in 54 games, was an absurd 180. One of the knocks on him is his strikeout rate, which held true for much of the year, especially at the higher level. Nonetheless, the positives with Baez far outweigh the negative. He also demonstrated clear improvement with the glove.
Javier Baez appears to be the total package for the Chicago Cubs. He gets on base, he can hit for power as well as average, and his defense is improving. He’s going to get a run at multiple positions in spring training, as the Cubs determine whether or not they can fit both Baez and Starlin Castro into their future plans. So just what is it that Baez has to show the Cubs in spring training in order to get a call sooner rather than later?
It may not be just one thing. He may have to demonstrate refinery across the board, as far as his skill set. His approach at the plate will certainly be a focal point, particularly his plate discipline. His defense, especially as he gets looks at other spots besides shortstop, will also be examined. Either way, it’s very likely we’re going to see Javier Baez at some point in the summer of 2014, it’s just a matter of when and where.