Javier Baez is generally considered the Chicago Cubs’ top prospect. The 20-year-old shortstop has ridiculous bat speed, massive power, and a ton of natural talent.
So, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that he was in Chicago this week for the Cubs’ new rookie development camp. He’s one of their top young players, so why wouldn’t he be participating?
Well, here are the other players up for the camp: pitchers Dallas Beeler, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Trey McNutt, Zach Rosscup, Nick Struck, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych, and position players Jae-Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur and Logan Watkins.
Notice anything about the non-Baez names? Some are considered better prospects than others, so it isn’t really a matter of this set being the “best” prospects in the system (otherwise guys like Jorge Soler and Albert Almora would have been included).
No, it’s a matter of this set being most of the better prospects who are closest to the big leagues. Literally every other player on the list is a conceivable call-up at some point in 2013 (emphasis on conceivable), as AA and AAA players. It makes sense that they were brought to Chicago for a camp that all about what it’s like to come up to the big leagues.
So what does that say about the Cubs’ opinion about Javier Baez? He played just a handful of games at the High-A level last year, so you wouldn’t think he’d be a legitimate threat to make the bigs in 2013. Indeed, the second half of 2014 seemed like the earliest realistic target.
Now I’m starting to wonder about that. Obviously the Cubs know about his readiness far better than we do.
“Javy’s still so young,” Cubs Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod said this week, per Cubs.com. “He’s only played really three months of a full season, and obviously, last year, he took the Midwest League by storm in a short time there and hit some bumps in Daytona. Being that he just turned 20 years old, obviously he’s a talented young man, and he’s going to ultimately decide [his progression].
“He loves to work, he works extremely hard. The plan for him this year is to get a full season under his belt.”
Given his participation in the camp, it now seems not altogether insane to suggest that the Cubs think it’s possible his “full season” could end in a September call-up (assuming roster space and all that). Why else would they be starting the process of preparing him for the big league this offseason instead of next?
Of course, if the Cubs are going to get very aggressive with Baez’s promotion schedule, they’re going to have to figure out the possible positional conflict sooner than they might otherwise have expected.
“All of us who saw [Baez] play last year every day on the field felt the same way, like wow, this young man can really play short,” McLeod said. “He plays the game really easy. He slows it down, anticipates, very good instincts. Right now, he’s a shortstop until he shows he can’t be. He’s a very good shortstop, and I see no reason why he won’t be playing there for a long time.”
If Baez is going to be promoted quickly, and is going to play shortstop for a long time … well, insert obvious Starlin Castro question, which is usually dismissed with a “meh, let’s worry about it in a couple years if it comes to that.” That’s probably still the right dismissal, but now it’s on my radar more than it was before.