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[Ed. – The following is another guest post from freelance reporter and ESPNChicago.com contributor, Sahadev Sharma. If you’re familiar with Sahadev’s work, you’ll understand what a privilege it is to get to put something of his up here in this space. Here’s his previous piece on the Cubs’ post-Rizzo hot streak.]

The other day, before we were all on 24-hour Dempster-watch, out of the blue I got an interesting text from an NL scout.

“Javier Baez is a bit above this league.”

Now when I say scout, I don’t mean any scout. This is my favorite scout, my go-to-guy, whose opinion I trust more than any other. I had heard from other scouts that Baez was a huge prospect with the bat but was not without his warts. He needs to work on his pitch recognition, aggressiveness and hitting breaking balls.

When I relayed these thoughts to this scout, he agreed with those issues, but also reminded me that he’s only 19.

“He’s a bit unique in that he’s so quick that he can hit any pitch,” added the scout. “He’ll get more selective with reps. He’s not really challenged (by low-A) pitching.”

Then on Monday, I saw this as part of Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein’s blurb on Javier Baez in his weekly Ten Pack (subscription required):

You might want to see Baez move up, but the Cubs have a shortstop they like at High-A in Arismendy Alcantara, and one at Double-A in Junior Lake. Both of them need at-bats too. The needs of a whole organization have to be considered before a prospect is promoted.

Side note: I want to emphasize that if you aren’t familiar with Goldstein, you’re missing out. Yes, you may think he’s a bit snarky on Twitter, maybe that’s not your thing (frankly I love it, it’s what makes Twitter fun), but you can’t deny that the guy knows his stuff. Not only does he have an amazing amount of connections in the game, he’s not too shabby of a talent evaluator himself. I spent the Midwest League All-Star Game picking his brain during batting practice and the game, and learned more than I have about scouting than ever before.

Of course, after getting that text from the scout, I had to check to see what his thoughts were on what Goldstein wrote. He said he could see what Goldstein was saying, but he had a bit of a different perspective on the situation.

“You have to treat your impact talents a little differently,” the scout said. “Lake has some upside, but in reality, is he going to ever be a 2 WAR player at the major league level? A lesser prospect should never block an impact guy if he’s ready to move. While [prospects] don’t develop in a vacuum, you’d better do all you need to to make sure top-end talent gets the chance it needs to develop. There are at-bats for everyone if you take the realistic view that there’s not a lot of high-end talent in the minor leagues, and the other prospects on a team are likely reserve players at the major league level that only improve their worth with defensive versatility.”

Baez is undoubtedly an elite-level talent. I’m not talking Bryce Harper and Mike Trout here, but Baez is considered one of the best offensive prospects in all of the minors. The scout I talked to admitted that maybe people on the player development side would give a different perspective, but it was clear that if he were making the decision, Baez would be headed to Daytona in short order.

In nearly two months of play, Baez has put up a rather impressive line of .328/.381/.589, with 10 home runs, seven doubles and five triples. Yes, it’s only two months, but recently it seems the Cubs have taken the approach of not being afraid to move a player up who is showing he’s more talented than the level he’s currently playing at, even if there is a solid prospect blocking him at that next level.

On Monday night, after 24 games in which he posted a .321/.391/.686 line with seven homers and 12 doubles in the Arizona League, Dan Vogelbach was moved up to Boise. Rock Shoulders, a prospect whom the Cubs’ brass likes, was already holding the fort down at first – Vogelbach’s position – in Boise. But apparently the Cubs considered Vogelbach’s development of more concern than worrying about where Shoulders would play.

Baez may spend the rest of the season at Peoria, or maybe we’ll be hearing soon that he’s headed to Daytona. The fact is, it looks like he’s ready to move on. It’s up to the Cubs to decide whether keeping him in Peoria, for the benefit of Alcantara or Lake, is more important than continuing the development of one of their most talented prospects.

  • Spriggs

    Very interesting stuff! Put me in the “move him up” camp, as I couldn’t agree more with treating special talents a little differently… Baez is telling us – it’s time.

  • Ash

    I’d like to see Baez finish out the year in Peoria, only because I’m selfish and I’d like to see him @ Kane County in September when the Chiefs come to town. Double bonus if Soler somehow ends up there too.

    • Mdel78

      +1 (and there are fireworks one night that I think I can convince my son are worth his while too!)

      • djriz

        Have tickets for Sept 2 and 3, so selfishly, i’d love to see him there (but I shouldn’t). But seeing Soler or Almora will suffice.

  • Patrick

    I am really hoping Baez does not move up till after the upcoming series against the River Bandits, I would love to see him play. Even as a QC River Bandits’ employee I am always quietly cheering for Peoria in the River Town Showdown. Shhhh

    • A.J.

      Hey, I’m from the QC as well!

      • Andrewmoore4isu

        I live in davenport also

  • JoeyCollins

    I was kinda hoping id get a chance to see him in peoria when i go home later this summer, but it really does sound like he needs a promotion. Also i like the guest posts Brett. Its nice to see a different perspective or get additional info from time to time and i like reading Sharmas work.

  • rhino70

    Selfishly, I’d like him to stay in Peoria so I can see him once or twice before the end of the summer.

  • Austin

    The only problem I see/have (no I’m not a scout but I know a lot about the game) is that when the Cheifs were playing the SilverHawks this past weekend on Monday against Archie Bradley he looked sub par. His bat speed was amazingly slow and he had absolutly no shot of getting good wood on him it seemed. Now this very well could be a bad night but Bradley is one of very few good pitchers in low-A that could really challenge him and he didn’t seem to be able to beat that challenge. I think if he is any higher than high-a this year then it may be a mistake which I don’t see happening yet. Just my 2 cents (I still think he can be a really good player don’t get me wrong on that.)

    • The Brian Roberts Trade

      From the way the Cubs FO has operated with bringing up Rizzo and talking about others, they will promote when they deem ready. So while Goldstien has a valid point the FO is not going to hesitate promoting him because of Lake, Alcantara, ect that would just be silly.

    • T Wags

      This is exactly why you promote him. He’s dominating the average pitching talent at his current level so you promote him to challenge him and get him adjusted to a higher level of talent. Then when he figures that league out, move him up again.

      • The Brian Roberts Trade

        I agree but the difference is when we deem him ready and the FO deems him ready.

        • T Wags

          Correct. I’m not saying he should be promoted tomorrow but I think it would be a waste of an opportunity to keep him in Peoria all season.

  • TampaCubsphan35

    Please promote him to Daytona before the 19th of August!!!!!!! Be nice to see Baez and Szczur in Tampa that week.

    • MightyBear

      Szczur might be going up to Tennessee by then.

  • Robbo

    Great info here. Still wondering what long-term position Baez and Lake will be best suited for. SS, 3B or other?

  • MichCubFan

    Baez, Soler, Almora, Vogelbach, Candelario…I like our positional prospects in the low minors. We haven’t had this much hitting talent for a while…especially with the power.

  • T Wags

    While I agree that there’s no blocking an impact prospect and they could find at bats for Alcantara, you could also argue that its time for Lake and Alcantara to move up as well(Although with Arismendy being on the DL that makes this plan a little more complicated). Lake has been in AA for around 130 games, and while he hasn’t been setting the world on fire, he hasn’t been struggling either. With 3 homers in his last 2 games and 2 hits in each of his last 4 games or so, he will soon be ready to move up IMO.

    • djriz

      It’s not like he is being blocked by anyone.

  • daveyrosello

    Lake is no longer much of a prospect, and many didn’t think he ever was to begin with. Too many holes in his bat. I’d say move Alcantara to AA, Baez to Daytona, and start thinking about converting Lake to a pitcher.

    • Toby

      Could Cubs use Lake as a deal sweetner in a trade in order to bring back a better package?

      • BleedingCubbieBlue

        Dempster (plus extension) and Lake to Dodgers for Lee

      • Chris

        Lake could be used as a sweetener, and I’ve seen rumors where he actually is. Personally, I’d like to see Lake get more time at 2B as he gets closer. He’s got raw tools that would make for a very good offensive second baseman. Baez is going to end up at 3rd eventually, but it makes perfect sense to leave him at SS as long as possible. Alcantara is a speedy switch hitter that could be a nice utility infielder, and maybe a little more if he makes the jump to AA and continues to hit. They also have Gioskar Amaya in Boise right now hitting very well. This system is stocked with good middle infield prospects. Hopefully they can get some of these guys to the majors and trade some of them for impact pitching prospects.

  • Drew7

    I’d rather see him spend a few more weeks in Peoria. His numbers, while impressive, are such a small sample that I’d like to see another 60-80 PA’s.

    As for him being blocked by Lake: I don’t see him sticking at SS anyway (hell, the way he’s growing, he could be 6’6 by ST!). I do, however, think Baez has a shown he has more of a chance to stick there than most thought when he was drafted.

    I am by no means an expert on player development, but if it were my decision, I leave him in Peoria until late August then give him a few games at A+. Who knows, Lake could continue his tear and get a late-season bump to AAA.

  • http://punshouse.com Nate Corbitt

    Let him go straight to the Smokies, so I can go see him! :-)

  • Myles

    This just screams to me TRADE JUNIOR LAKE WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

    I’d trade him to another team for a lottery ticket 3B or a lottery ticket P… unless you’re going to turn Lake INTO a lottery ticket 3B or P.

    • EQ76

      I agree.. come on, is Lake really ever going to be our SS?? shoot, for that matter is Baez? As long as Castro is a Cub, a guy like Lake probably doesn’t have a long term future with us. Maybe he’ll be part of a deal soon.

      • Whiteflag

        Package him up with Garza and persuade the Rangers to hand over Olt +. Thats my dream scenario.

        • djriz

          This is as good as any place to ask this question, so Whiteflag don’t take it personal. Why all the love for Olt? I’ve read that he is an avg defensive 3rd Baseman with power, and a questionable hit tool. He has a bunch of HR’s, but he is a 24 yr old in AA. Does anyone else have a different scouting report.

    • 34275

      IMO Lake is way too unrefined for a 22 year old who has been playing pro ball for the bast six seasons. His K/BB rate is still terrible and he’s yet to get his OPS over .800 over a full season’s play. What anyone sees in him besides “tools” is beyond me. Junior Lake should be blocking no one.

  • Wilbur

    Going to the Chiefs game tomorrow night and looking forward to seeing Baez play first hand …

    Really enjoyed the write-up.

  • Steve

    I don’t think it’s anybody’s decision but Javier’s….don’t you remember??

    Javier Baez “does what ever the F he wants!!!!”

    • Drew7

      Forgot about that part

  • Richard Nose

    Goooooood stuff.

  • Sosa23

    We should keep all the talent we have in the minors and not trade any of it. Anyone who thinks that we should trade away any top prospects needs to rethink that.

    • TWC

      *lulz*

      Who knows, maybe we’ll another Reed Johnson!

      • AB

        Do you mean Nucleus Johnson?? thats the only name I know him as.

    • Drew7

      I assume you’re responding to the comment regarding Lake as a sweetener. If that’s the case, would you feel the same way in this scenario:

      Garza to Team A for an A and 2 C/C+ prsopects
      or
      Garza + Lake to Team A for an A, B, and C/C+

      Not saying that he would necessarily bump the return that much, but he could.

  • BleedingCubbieBlue

    Doesn’t baker play 3rd? I wasn’t to see him more over Valbuena.

    • BleedingCubbieBlue

      Sorry I want to see Baker in for Valbuena at 3rd more often.

  • Jonski

    I see we out righted Acensio …could this mean a trade might be brewing Brett or just another call up to take his spot.For my part on the Dempster rolla coaster im sorry for my dis- tastefull remark in the am yesterday didn’t mean to shit in your front yard so to speak.This is your blog and guess and members should respect.

    • Austin

      He was outrighted awhile back and just cleared waviers today.

      • Jonski

        Thanks man ..don’t know how I missed that 1 lol

  • Windy City Misfit

    I have been to more then a few Chiefs game this year, and yes I have been impressed with how well (hard) he can hit a ball, but I have been disappointed with his other baseball skills. His base running and fielding seem to leave allot of room for improvement. I know he is just 18… But that’s why I saw he needs to stay in Peoria. Some things just don’t show up in the .321/.391/.686.

    Does anything other then the bat justify moving him up? And can fundamentals be engrained in him along the way? And can those fundamentals stop him from moving up?

    • djriz

      Respectably disagree.
      No matter what league you’re in, the bases are 90′ apart.
      No matter what league you’re in, the position of SS is the same.
      No matter what league you’re in, travel is the same.

      The differences. The coaches abilities (may be a ‘match for Baez’ somewhere) and the pitching. Baez needs to see better pitching, plain and simple.

      Yes, his slash line is fantastic, but more telling may be the progress he’s made.
      May =.125/.222/.125
      June = .333/.409/.507
      July = .360/.385/.686

      • Scotti

        Respectfully disagree, while the bases are still 90′ and SS is still the same, etc., part of development is the promise of promotion. Work on X and we’ll promote you. Well, if he hasn’t gotten better at X, promoting him would reinforce that X (maybe plate discipline, a better two strike approach, base-running or even clubhouse issues) isn’t important and that only hitting it long and hard is important.

        I think that Vogelbach is obviously either, A) a really stupid misteak on the part of the Cubs in putting hit at Mesa in the first place or, B) a prime example of the Cubs using promotions as both a carrot and a stick for development other than hitting.

  • Rdevine1

    Brett or Luke,

    Because Castro is looking like he can be an elite offensive and defensive (as long as he stays focused) SS for the next decade and a half and Baez has been projected to move to 3B before he was even drafted, when does the FO and coaches ask minor leaguers to change positions (like Baez)? I feel like asking Baez to change positions at a lower level both helps promote him in a way and keep him where he is in a way. It helps promote him because there is less depth at 3B in the system but on the other hand it would probably be good for him to learn a new position at a lower level. Just curious what your take on this situation might be as I’m really excited for a future of Castro and Baez on the left side of the infield.

    • Richard Nose

      I know I’m not Brett or Luke, I’m interested in this response too. I’d think they’d keep him at short for quite awhile longer for a couple reasons. His market value as a SS that can hit 30 dongs is mammoth, like top 10 in all of mlb after next year if he keeps it up? move him to 3B already and there are some similar comps at that position, Olt, Castellanos, etc. and even more already up in the majors. Also, sounds like he’s had some pretty solid performances at short, I’m with ya I think it’s a big longshot that he’ll play SS for the Cubs, but it’s pretty early to be ruling that out yet. Interesting concept though. I do think trasition from SS to 3B should be fairly easy for a big athlete (ripken, ARod, etc) , lots of success stories, 3B to SS would be the exact opposite I’d imagine, Im no expert.

      • Drew7

        Spot on, Mr Nose.

        His value is much higher as a SS. Best case, he shows he can stick at SS and he’s blocked by Castro, requiring a move to 3B. If it turns out that he’s viewed as a trade piece in a couple years, his value to other teams would be huge (assuming he continues to progress).

        • Scotti

          He can also learn 3B BETTER by staying at SS. SS get 2-3 X the fielding opportunities than a 3B. Virtually all future 3B should start as SS in the lower minors just to get them more reps.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    I think 50 games is enough to establish your dominance in a league. 22% Strike out rating, 106TB in 197PA (awesome), 25RBI in 48 G, 19 SB / 3 CS, 22 Runs scored not off of HR. The thing that worries me is that he’s gotten plunked 9 times in 197 Plate Appearances.

  • Edward

    Makes sense to wait until the trade deadline passes. This is a good problem to have! Too many good shortstops is never a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years. Will we lock up Castro long term? Will we consider a position change for Baez if he continues to advance? Shortstop is the toughest infield position to play, so it makes sense that we would want to postpone position changes as long as we can. Here’s hoping we can find room for Baez AND Castro at Wrigley in the not-too-distant future.

  • Fastball

    Agree, Valbuena has contributed but that was two weeks ago almost. Dale’s ridden the kid a little too long. Right now at the plate he is making Barney look like a professional hitter.

  • Chris

    Why hasn’t anyone pointed out that Alcantara went on the DL last week? Instead of moving up Baez, they called up college draftee Timothy Saunders from Rookie league to replace Alcantara in Daytona. Granted, Saunders was crushing Rookie league pitching, but still, that’s a 3 level jump. He is older than Baez, and maybe it isn’t a permanent move due to the DL situation for Alcantara, but it would have been the perfect time to call Baez up and see if he could take the next step in Daytona.

  • anotherjp

    I like what Goldstein says about not blocking your elite prospects and think that until Baez outgrows the SS position it’s others that should look at changing positions or be traded. Don’t know the time table of when he should be going to Daytona but I can totally see Baez in TN a year from today.

  • Sahadev Sharma

    A lot of you are wondering whether Baez can stick at SS and if not, when does he move. First off, I think most of you already know he’s not sticking at SS, it’s pretty widely accepted among scouts. As for when, I’ve been told multiple times by scouts that it’s best to let these kids figure it out on their own. As they move up through the minors, eventually they’ll see that short (or whatever the position may be) just isn’t working for them if they want to reach the big leagues. When the kid realizes it, that’s when most teams will make the move. It creates less of an issue since most of these big prospects have egos (which is a good thing, you want them to be confident in their abilities), so when they realize they need to move, it’s not a big dramatic situation. Hopefully I explained that clearly…

    And thank you for all the kind comments on here and Twitter, I appreciate them.

    • http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2012/07/watch-jorge-solers-first-hr-as-a-cub/ John Arguello

      For what it’s worth, I talked to one scout (non-Cubs), who thinks Baez can be an MLB SS. Said that he thinks he can play SS, but not as well as Castro, so he’s going to have to move anyway. So it’s more than likely a moot point. The second guy I talked to wasn’t as sure he could stay there though. His thought was probably not.

  • jim

    Mars needs women! Oops, i mean cubs need young pitching prospects!!

  • Josh

    The Cubs should change him over to 3B now, or Lake over to 2B. Because neither of them is going to play SS at the major league level for the Cubs. They both have opportunities to start for the team. Baez at 3rd, and Lake at 2nd. Mine as well do it now.

    • Scotti

      Josh, Baez gets 2-3X the fielding reps at SS than he would at 3B. He needs more reps, not less. Moving him now would be a mistake.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Exactly. When the time does come to move Baez, it can be done in a few months if necessary. There is no rush.

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