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javier baez daytona cubsJavier 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.

  • ssckelley

    This article I can read just fine. It is when you have bullet points, the podcast ad shows up with very bullet point you do.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m not sure I understand – can you send me a screenshot (Brett at bleachernation dot com)? Maybe that’ll help me resolve it.

      • ssckelley

        I do not know how to do a screen shot on my iPad using Safari. The Bleacher Nation Podcast box shows up in place of the bullet, both in your articles and the Recent Comments. The text is still there but almost impossible to read. This has been going on now for 3 days.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That’s pretty crazy – so the browser is interpreting the podcast picture as the “bullet” arrow image. I can’t for the life of me think of why that would be happening, but I’ll look into it.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett
            • ssckelley

              Thanks, a screen shot has just been mailed to you.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            One thing that sometimes works when there’s a rendering problem is to clear your cache and restart the browser. Might help.

            • ssckelley

              I have tried closing Safari and restarted my iPad. Fwiw everything looks fine on my laptop using Opera.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Did you clear your cache, though? That’s the main thing.

                • ssckelley

                  Just did and that took care of it. OMG, I am such a noob with this iPad. Thanks for helping!

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Not a problem in the least – I’m just glad we figured it out!

        • Melrosepad

          if not a screen shot, why not get the screen up and take a picture with a camera. Won’t be the best quality, but you’d at least see the screen

        • Chris B

          Hit the “Home” & “Power” button at the same time.

          • Mr. Brent Kennedy

            Dab a q-tip with rubbing alcohol and run it along the cartridge.

            • ssckelley

              Do I need to chant anything while doing that?

  • ETS

    starlin has a solid arm, transitioning to 3rd shouldn’t be an issue. I’m still hoping for trading barney (sorry barney, I like ya but you were meant to be at short anyway) and putting baez at 2nd (great second baseman since, dare I say it?, no, no I can’t say that)….

    • JB88

      I don’t see Castro’s bat transitioning to third as well as it would at SS. In other words, Castro’s value as a batter is magnified by his premium position as much, if not more, than the numbers he has actually produced.

      Additionally, I haven’t seen or read anything that suggests that Baez’s range factor would be better than Castro’s. My suspicion is that the Cubs believe any defensive transition can be made in the offseason and want to keep both Castro and Baez at short to maximize their trade value in case they want to go that route.

      • bails17

        Well said JB88! Agree.

      • JP

        I’m with JB88. I think this is classic Epstein maximizing assets. Sounds like he’s pumping a younger player in Baez at a premium position to make him more appealing in a trade. If another team starts seeing him the way McCloud and company do maybe someone like the D-Backs don’t ask for an excessive amount in return for Upton past Baez.

      • Bwa

        If we have Baez and Castro playing short and third I don’t care whose bat fits better at which position because they will both be in be lineup. Play them at whichever position makes our defense stronger, which at this point we don’t know.

        • http://yahoo Roy

          Maybe this thought is a little old school. Castro has been set at SS for three years and is only 22. Baez is still young and raw talent with a great arm. Convert him to 3B Now. Barney is more than above average 2B for years to come. That could set the Cubs infield for 10 or more years by 2014. You get the Development from just 2 of our top outfield prospects like Jackson and Solar. That leaves only a few holes to fill via FA to make a SERIOUS run at contending in 2014. I believe our pitching staff could be in the top 10 or 12 in baseball. If only 70% of Leo’s hunches pay off. We could be in good shape this season. What I am saying is not going to take any magic potions. Just a few players stepping up. Leo and company bot HAS and IS moving forward. And I believe the future is very close. it will be fun to watch.

    • Stevie B

      Yeah…don’t say it.

  • Spriggs

    I love to hear that… about playing SS for a long time. Coming from Jason, that’s quite a compliment on his fielding.

  • bails17

    Baez at second or third would be great! Just depends on what we would be able to do with one of those positions in free agency. OR…if we could pick up Olt or someone else in a trade.

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent

    Looking forward to seeing Javier Baez in Tennessee during the 2nd half of 2013. Hopefully he gets off to a good start in Daytona and forces the issue to the Smokies for a great summer of watching this prospect develop in the Southern League as he climbs the ladder.

    I think the Cubs are going to be “backing up” lots of prospects to ensure proper playing time, so I have a hunch we will see lots of returning players at similar levels as they finished last season. In Tennessee; I like the sound of an outfield that includes Jae-Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur and Rubi Silva. I think a lot of our pitching returns (at least for the 1st half) and depending on what happens at AAA; I wonder if Juston Bour’s everyday at bats return to AA rather than a potential platoon at AAA?

    Can’t wait for spring training to start!!

    Brandon

    • CubFan Paul

      You don’t see Loux & Struck starting out in AAA?

      Along with Vizcaiano, Cabrera, ..?

      • Brandon – AA Correspondent

        I can see Struck going to AAA. Never saw Loux pitch…..so no idea. The reason behind my statements about player being “backed up” is that the AAA roster seems to be filled with a lot of guys from big league camp that are just on the fringe or simply insurance policies due to injuries. I just am not so sure that there are going to be very many roster openings at AAA (with Vitters and BJax heading back to start in AAA). Clevenger or Castillo possible returning to AAA to be the everyday catcher etc. I think Cabrera, Raley, Rusin, Dolis etc. may be hard pressed to make the Cubs roster out of S/T….so back to Iowa they go. That’s my point….I think the pitching openings will also be slim which may log jam some initial (1st half) advancement.

        We shall see. One thing we know in the minors…..is that the team you start with is NEVER the team you finish with. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing some new faces advances upwards. The Cubs seem to have a lot of talent coming soon to a ballpark near you…..or ME!!
        Brandon

        • CubFan Paul

          “eagerly looking forward to seeing some new faces advances upwards”

          Definitely a good year for prospect watch…Theo&Co. should even have some prospect trading bullets to acquire established MLBers for 2014 (Price?)

  • Garrett

    Why can’t when the time is right, ride as much possible trade value Barney has, albeit not much, trade him and slide starlin to second and have a tremendous 1-2 punch

    • CubFan Paul

      Barney is at max trade value now.

      He’s arbitration eligible after 2013 so this is his last salary year at the minimum & he’s a Gold Glover. It ain’t gettin much higher than it is right now (and definitely before he SLGs .350 April-July pre-deadline)

  • JOHN

    Brett,
    What do you see as a ceiling stats wise for Baez?
    Is .300, 30 hrs, and 100 rbi realistic?

    • ETS

      Projecting average is difficult (futile?) due to the volatile nature of BABIP. ISOd/ISOp are more stable. All this said, projecting ceiling stats on 19 year olds??? We would need Nate Silver.

      • sclem21

        Prospect guys project what a triple slash (not that avg/hr/rbi is triple slash but you see what im saying) would look like all the time. Nothing wrong with having something to dream on; no one will hold you accountable if the accuracy/precision isnt there for a 19 year old. From what I’ve read from various sources I dont think you could rule out any of those 3 #s that John threw out. Certainly a gap between where is is now and those numbers though where a lot of variables make us reserve the right to change our minds.

  • Roughrider

    I was born a Cub & Bear Fan and check Bleacher Nation every day and usually more than once. Anybody know of a comperable Bear Blog?

    • Roughrider

      I guess the answer was no.

    • King Jeff

      http://www.dabearnecessities.com/
      I’ve only been going to the site for a few weeks, but they update pretty often and offer some decent insight.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        And Clapp is a friend. Good guy.

        • MikeW

          Yeah, Clapp’s my buddy too. Great guy, great site. Everyone should check it out.

  • baseballet

    Although unlikely, It’s certainly possible that Baez could play in the big leagues this season. Castro had his debut when he was 20 years old, and Baez is 21 years old.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Just turned 20 on December 1.

      • baseballet

        His bday is listed as 12/1/92, so he’s 21

        • TWC

          You want to try that math again?

        • baseballet

          oops I had fuzzy math, you’re right he’s 20

          • FFP

            Sorry, Javier. Put the beer back, son.

  • PKJ

    It’s very exciting to think of Javy’s future with the Cubs. Seeing that they’re almost the exact same age and pedigree, what makes him any different than Manny Machado of the Orioles? I mean, why wouldn’t we see him some time in late 2013?

  • Chad

    no Junior Lake, to me that is telling.

    • AB

      Ummm…..Pretty sure none of those other guys played winter, like Lake did.

    • Brandon – AA Correspondent

      Junior Lake is a turd. But my opinion of him may be slightly jaded. Do yourself a favor, and do not get too excited over this toolsy player. At best, he is Ruben Rivera.

      • Jeff

        I have to agree with Brandon, I saw him last year for a few games at AA and I agree with Brandon’s insight. I watched Castro in the same spot two years earlier, big difference between the two.

      • CubFan Paul

        Wow. I’m not gonna tell you to tune it down, because you’re a Tennessee guy and watch a lot of games, but it would be nice at the very least if Lake made the Big League team sometime soon as a super-utility player (3B, 2B, OF) with speed, arm, & power.

        • Brandon – AA Correspondent

          I agree…it would be nice if that happended. But if it did happen…..would we truly be happy about the development of this prospect into a MLB utility guy??

          I’d rather trade him to a team that still buys into the hype.

          I’m not trying to be argumentative…..I like having a board to post on. No offense taken if you don’t agree.

          But….if you watched this guy play 10 games; I think you’d come away as frustrated as I have been watching him for over a year.

          So much talent…….but just drives you nuts.

      • Cedlandrum

        I have seen you make all kinds of comments about Junior in the past. Why is it that you don’t like him? Just curious. I have seen in the past that he can be a little uncoachable.

        • Brandon – AA Correspondent

          Junior Lake is an enigma to me. He has lots of tools and at times shows good command of those tools. But as you mentioned…..he has seemed a little uncoachable…..more importantly to me (just my opinion) is WORK ETHIC.

          Reminds me a lot of the Padres prospect that they acquired in the Hideki Irabu trade with the Yankees that was supposedly “toolsy and the talk of the minors: (Ruben Rivera). Nobody could put on a 5pm batting practice session like Ruben. Nobody had an arm like Ruben. Nobody could run like Ruben. But when Ruben got his shot…..you found out pretty quick….that tools alone were not enough. He did not have the work ethic. He did not have the respect of his coaches and teammates.

          Junior Lake reminds me an awful lot of Ruben Rivera. He just does not appear to put in the time to getting better. He has talent. But his presence on the field does not say “big leaguer”. I want to root for the guy….I really do. But he is as non-chalant (sp??) and as primadonna as they come.

          This board gets enfatuated with prospects based on tools and stats…..and I also believe that you have to project out to be a big leaguer in terms of work ethic and profesisonalism and desire in order to get excited. I just don’t see it in this kid.

          • Cedlandrum

            kinda echoes what I have heard. Thanks Brandon

          • Marc N.

            Interesting take on Lake from someone who sounds like they have seen him live. He does seem to be admiring himself from the very little I have seen him. I still think he’s interesting, though interesting in the way all Cubs prospects currently above AA are (meh but not talentless).

  • abe

    I am surprised not to see J lake on that list..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah – though it could simply be because he was playing in the DR.

  • Corey

    is there any reason not to put Baez at 3rd ?

    • CubFan Paul

      when Epstein was asked a few months ago about Baez moving off SS, he *quickly* mentioned 2B, then the OF as possibilities…

    • Marc

      Keep him up the middle and put him at second.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Is there any reason to move him to 3B now?

    • hansman1982

      He can play good defense at SS?

  • Kukini

    Maybe the Cubs’ brass is trying to make final evaluations on who their better long-term answer at short is. They might be trying to see how big-league-ready Javy is so they can either groom him and include him in a Stanton or Price deal, or groom him to have him replace Castro (less likely IMO), moving Starlin for a similar deal. Just a thought.

    I do find it odd that they seem unwilling to make an infield of both Starlin and Baez work.

    • Kygavin

      Both of them have more value as SS than they would anywhere else on the field. This is no different than what BAL did with Jonathan Schoop even though they had Machado in front of him and he was going to have to change positions at some point. This helps show that both can stick at SS if they are going to trade one (most likely Baez) where both of their bats have the most value

      • Kukini

        Yeah, that is what I was getting at. I don’t know what Miami or Tampa will want, but it just seems that we’re priming Baez to ship him off for a major player. Let the 2014 rumor mill commence.

        • Kygavin

          Not sure if the Rays will need a SS since they have Hak Ju Lee (former Cub yay!!) but the Marlins definitely do unless they think Hechavaria (spelling isnt even close) is the answer

  • Robert

    Do you think this has more to do with building up his value? Luke doesn’t seem as high on Baez as everyone else and shortstops seem to net big returns lately. I doubt they would move Castro from short. Baez does not seem like a Theo guy. You do an excellent job with the site btw.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Preserving/enhancing Baez’s potential trade value – if it came to that – is certainly a large part of the reason you leave him at short as long as possible.

      (And thanks.)

  • Tremendous Slouch

    I can’t see the comments from McLeod on Baez being anything more than posturing at this point. With all the glowing reviews they’ve given on Castro’s deffense, the fact that his bat translates way better at SS/while Baez projects as a 3B (offensively), just leads me to believe they’re keeping Baez at SS to keep his trade value at it’s peak.

    I’m not saying they intend to trade him at any point, only that I assume should they decide to move him he would be more atractive as a future SS… even if only slightly.

    • Tremendous Slouch

      In my defense I was typing this and didn’t see Brett’s response above… :)

    • Kygavin

      I agree with everything you said but i think Baez’s value is a lot higher at SS (not just slightly). There were only 6 (counting Zobrist who only played out of necessity) SS who hit over 20 HR last year. For someone with Baez’s potential to hit 20-30 and play solid D, the value is enormous. Remember Bauer was traded for a guy who might hit 2-3 HR a year (granted with an exceptional glove but my point remains)

      • Marc

        Gregorius has more than 2-3 HR power, especially in Arizona. I’d say 7-8 with down the road potential for a 10.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Every team should keep every prospect at the toughest position on the defensive spectrum the player can legitimately handle, until it is absolutely necessary to move them elsewhere.

  • Marc

    I would like to see Baez’s plate discipline numbers improve. The good thing about his highly mediocre numbers there so far is that it was all in the low minors and he was hitting anyway.

  • Big Joe

    The guy high more than “a bump in the road” at High A Daytona. If he plays well, I’d be happy to see him end the year in AA ball…not a September call up in Chicago. That, to me, is way to early. I could see him starting the year in Iowa, in 2014, then a call up that September. Perhaps, earning a big league job, to start the 2015 season.
    Like everyone else, I realize that the team knows where Baez is in his development. Starlin Castro did just fine at a very young age, when he came up. I just have to believe that Baez would have to show something unbelievable, to warrant a call up next season.

    • JB88

      I think it is awfully difficult to determine the usefulness of Baez’s Daytona numbers given how infrequently he was playing. Not that they don’t have any value, but I think the value is lessened given the circumstances under which he was playing.

      But I do think that a September call-up would be insanely aggressive and would require Baez to pretty much have a legendary minor league system across at least 2 levels.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        Baez’s numbers in Daytona are meaningless.

    • King Jeff

      If Baez does enough to play a decent amount of time at Tennessee this season, then I don’t think a September call-up is out of the picture. Maybe they let him come up for a few weeks and see what MLB pitching is like firsthand, and send him back down to make the adjustments to his game. I also don’t think it would be too crazy that they just decided that he deserved a shot, he’s 20 now, and would be at least close to 21 by September with over 2 seasons in the system. It would be aggressive to call him up next year, but not absurd by any means, especially if he hits like expected this year.

  • http://bleachernation.com hutch

    Would people stop talking about trading for upton. Especially trading baez. Why would you trade a guy with as much upside for a guy who is 6 years older and has weak mental makeup. If hes so great why has he been on the block for 3 years. No way do u make that trade. I know prospects dont always pan out but if baez doesnt your not gonna have to pay him 100 million dollars like you would upton

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Weak mental makeup?

      “If hes so great why has he been on the block for 3 years.”
      I guess you’re not a fan of getting Anthony Rizzo…a guy who was now traded twice in the last few years? While AZ values him so highly that they haven’t gotten big enough offers the last 3 years.

      • http://bleachernation.com hutch

        Also rizzo has only been good for half a season lets not crown him lou gehrig just yet. If a player is that valuable you simply dont trade him. I dont think uptons even a top 25 player

        • DocPeterWimsey

          There is nothing wrong with Upton’s “mental makeup.” That’s just nonsense perpetrated by people in AZ who confuse “personality” with “bad attitude” and “injury” with “moral weakness.” (I suspect that they advocate teaching alchemy in science classes, too….)

          • DarthHater

            You’re just feeling grumpy because you’re a Capricorn. ;-)

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      Upton has at least as much upside as Baez, if not more, and is a lot closer to reaching it.

    • Marc N.

      “6 years older” is 25/26.

      • http://bleachernation.com hutch

        thats how old upton is

        • Marc N.

          And a deadly age it be!

  • MichCubFan

    They are not going to rush Baez. He needs to dramatically improve his plate discipline and they are not going to pass that up like we did with Corey Patterson. They also like keeping guys in triple-A for a full season’s worth of at-bats. That means that mid 2015 is just about as quick as he could come up to the majors.

    Then there is no reason to move him off of short stop until he is directly blocked by another player. You don’t know what is going to happen with Starlin by the time Baez is ready. It is not just for trade value, it is common sense. You keep a player at his best natural position until he either proves he can’t play it any more or until he needs to move for another player…or very close to that time. The time to move Baez off of short stop, for Starlin Castro, would be the second half of triple-A or maybe a little earlier. A guy who can play a good short stop will not have a big problem with any other position on the field that is not pitcher or catcher.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    I’m not sure what a September call-up accomplishes for Baez. If he gets 50 PAs at the MLB in 2013, I predict we see 2 amazing home runs and 30 corkscrew strikeouts that make Fukudome consider suing for royalties.

    • King Jeff

      That’s more than likely what we could expect. I just don’t think it would a huge surprise if he reaches the majors this year in some capacity.

      • Marc N.

        I would be surprised. Lots of room for his plate discipline to ruin him.

  • http://bleachernation.com ramy16

    More like Lake at 3rd, Castro at SS, Baez at 2nd and Rizzo at 1st and Castillo at C! Nice infield if you ask me!

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor (no relation)

    I hope they don’t rush this kid. I can see him putting up similar numbers to Castro, except maybe a little more power and take a bit more walks. I think that’s why they’re grooming Castro in the 5 hole behind Sori, because the transition to the 6 hole will be easier that way.

    We get Olt in a trade for Garza this year and Baez/Soler play together and shoot up through the farm system. We get a left-handed LF in a trade involving Barney.

    2014
    CF DeJesus (L)
    2B Baez
    1B Rizzo (L)
    RF Soler
    LF Reddick (L)
    3B Olt
    SS Castro
    C Castillo

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