One point of interest with Baez at the plate is that there is still more potential in him to be better on a regular basis. After even just a quick glance on his Baseball Savant page, you will see that Baez has a maximum exit velocity in the 98th percentile, reaching all the way up 116.7 mph. That is incredibly impressive. However, what I also note from his page is that his average exit velocity is at the 68th percentile, at about 90 mph on average over his career. That’s not what you would expect for someone with so much top-end power in his swing.
Originally I thought this would be because of the high ground-ball rate from Baez at 47% in 2021, but it is actually very similar to that of other big power hitters like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 44.8% and Giancarlo Stantons 44.7%. Comparing their other rate stats, there is a contrast in their hit placements as Baez is a more pull-heavy hitter, but mainly there is a difference in their hard-hit rate as Baez is 5% lower. This relates back to his only slightly above average exit velocity.
Here’s a positive sign for the Detroit Tigers and Javier Baez
A positive sign for the Tigers is Baez’s stellar second half in 2021 where he had a hard hit rate of 39% (that’s 5% higher than his career average of 34.4%). He also moved his line drive rate up to 23%. However, it was skewed from the 28.6% he had in September and October.
Overall for me, Baez just does not have the consistency of being an above-average hitter enough for me to love him being the main guy in Detroit. Maybe that isn’t the expectation but, looking at the other guys already on the team or on the way up, it feels like that will be on Baez’s shoulders. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are the only other guys I can see taking that role, but that is a lot of pressure when they still need to make their Major League debuts.
This is my main problem with the move because the Tigers needed a guy who could be the best hitter in their lineup every single game, and they just don’t seem to be getting that in Baez. There was a report from Buster Olney of ESPN last week that the Tigers offered Carlos Correa a contract worth $275 million over 10 seasons. Immediately upon seeing that, I knew it would be too low as Lindor received $341 million and Corey Seager got $325 million with the same length.
Now if the issue was money, it really shouldn’t have been. Even with Miguel Cabrera making $32 million for the next two seasons, the signing of Eduardo Rodriguez, and Javier Baez’s new deal, the Tigers are only at $103 million for the 2022 season. This leaves them with the 16th-highest payroll in baseball, and still $11 million lower than the league average.