It was a ridiculous question to ask in the wake of Javier Baez’s four-homer performance the other night.
Does this mean he’s getting promoted?
A single game – even an historically awesome one – doesn’t dictate a player’s movement through an organization. There are development plans, things to work on, and small sample sizes to avoid.
But, although it is a ridiculous premise, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein found a way to address promoting Baez on the basis of that game that makes it all sound very reasonable.
“In some ways [a single game] can [move the promotion needle],” Epstein told the media, per the Daily Herald. “We ask players to execute the player-development plan. That’s how they get to the next level. A night like that, if it’s part of a longer stretch, and so far it has been this month, where he clearly dominates his competition, that gets him closer to moving up.
“Any one night or any one game in itself doesn’t really change the progression or the pattern of the player. He’s doing really well. What stands out to me more than the power … [is] he’s really started to have better quality at-bats and have his swing under control more and cut his strikeout rate down a little bit and seeing some more pitches. He still got some polish to his game before he moves through the organization.”
Epstein went on to discuss Baez’s elevated error totals, per the Daily Herald piece and Cubs.com, explaining them away while saying that the Cubs now believe even more than they did before this season that Baez can stick at shortstop long-term. That piece might be a little bit of salesmanship, but the developmental stuff still applies. Although the four-homer game, itself, doesn’t force a promotion, but when it comes as part of a stretch that fits with the Cubs’ development prerogatives, it can help push the issue.
That has certainly been the case for Baez, whose strikeout rate is falling, and whose OPS has climbed from .726 in mid-May to over .900 now. Mid-to-late-June is often heavy in organizational movement as the short seasons get underway and draft signees start filtering into the system. Moving Baez up to AA Tennessee within the next few weeks now seems like a very realistic possibility.
The only rub there is playing time, which Baez is obviously going to need at shortstop. Arismendy Alcantara has emerged as a very legitimate prospect for the Tennessee Smokies, though he’s only been playing part-time at shortstop. If he’s not ready to move up to AAA Iowa – Alcantara is just 21, although he’s hitting very well – Alcantara could spend more time at second base. But then the Cubs run into some tricky decisions with what to do with Roni Torreyes (another legit prospect, mostly playing second base) and Christian Villanueva (another legit prospect, mostly playing third base).
The glut is a good problem to have, but is a problem that requires solving before Baez can be promoted. Because when Baez comes up to AA, one thing’s for sure: he’s the priority at shortstop.