On Tuesday, Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez will officially become a major leaguer, likely making his debut at second base for the last place Cubs, the only team with a losing record in the NL Central, when they take on the Rockies in Denver. For the fans, the wait for their incredibly gifted, power-hitting middle infielder hasn’t been nearly as long as their World Series drought, and after Baez had completed his 40 game outburst on Sunday for Iowa, when he hit .322 with 12 home runs, 38 RBI, and a 1.046 OPS, the 21-year-old deemed himself ready.
When Baez was hitting .223/.275/.416 at the end of May with a 63:12 K:BB over 166 at-bats, he was nearly written off by many prospect gurus, who loved mentioning his effort, boredom, and attitude as the downfall of his future. His approach will always be aggressive and the cockiness may bother some folks, but the power potential in that approach warrants very little need for an overhaul in his game or his swagger. Obviously, Baez figured it out, using his recent outburst to up his season line to .260/.323/.510, with 24 doubles, two triples, 23 home runs, 80 RBI, and 16 stolen bases.
Having played 16 games at second base since the acquisition of Addison Russell from Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal, Baez will take the job in Chicago from Arismendy Alcantara, who will likely slide to center field, making both Ryan Sweeney and Junior Lake fulfill bench roles going forward.
Given the Cubs’ current ability to make the playoffs, zero percent, it seems a bit odd to begin Baez’s arbitration clock by bringing him up in August, rather than in September. If he thrives, he’ll stay, but if the club is willing to give Baez a look now, this aggressive call-up could lead to a promotion for Iowa teammate, Kris Bryant, as well.
I’ve written about Baez quite a bit, including his 2013 explosion and ranking him on prospect lists, and he has deserved the attention. His bat-speed has been compared to Gary Sheffield‘s, and his power at a middle infield position would make him as valuable as Alex Rodriguez in his shortstop days in fantasy baseball. He shouldn’t be available in any fantasy league, particularly dynasty leagues, but with a cold start, people may write him off as quickly as they did at the beginning of the season…and, then, you can strike on a buy-low trade in the off-season.
Baez could be a generational talent, and while he may not be as valuable at second base as he was at shortstop, it doesn’t change the potential in the bat. The Baez era begins in Colorado tomorrow, in a thin-air launching pad that invites an historic debut. Don’t forget to set your DVR, watch highlights, or skip out on watching YOUR team to get a glimpse of future greatness on Tuesday. This is the future of Chicago Cubs’ success, in the lightening quick swing of a 21-year-old kid.