Is Javier Baez Getting Close to a Promotion?

javier baez aflIt 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.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

79 responses to “Is Javier Baez Getting Close to a Promotion?”

  1. Believe in 2015

    Totally agree Brett. This is a great problem to have. The depth in the farm system is building and getting better

    1. Bilbo161

      If like to see Baez keep it up for a while before promoting him. The ideal scenario for me would be the 1. Cubs hold him back. 2. Baez respond as if challenged and tear it up for another month and force the move in mid-July. By then the cubs should make some moves/trades that open up the spots in AA and AAA.

      1. Bilbo161

        I’d

  2. hansman1982

    Well, hopefully I was grossly wrong about Baez…

    1. T C

      Me too. The big difference between K’s and BB’s will always be concerning, as it indicates there are a lot of pitchers exploiting holes in his swing, but with his bat speed it’s entirely possible that he learns to close those holes, or learns better pitch recognition.

  3. David

    Watch out Starlin!!! I just wonder what is going through Castro’s head??? Nervous?? Scared? Excited?

    1. ETS

      I hope he’s thinking about the housing market in Seattle as we get ready for Walker.

      (jkjk, I’m still all in the pro-castro camp)

      1. Rich H

        Only if it is King Felix. They will not trade Castro with a prospect as the center of the deal. That would put the window of competing back to far.

    2. David

      For the record, this guy is NOT me. Please don’t think I would ever post anything this dumb.

      1. TWC

        I highly, highly doubt that there are two Davids. That’s unpossible!

    3. Coop

      Die Hard? Is that you?

  4. Kyle

    You do whatever’s best for Baez. Screw Alcantara (not really, he’s a good prospect, but whatevs).

    In general, one game shouldn’t change much, but we can make exceptions for 4 home run games. It’s four home runs! Four home runs in a month means something.

    1. Andrew

      Ya i say they promote Baez, and decide whether Alcantara can stick at short. Alcantara can play short, promote him to Iowa, if he can’t, send him to second base and send Torreyes back down to daytona. Torreyes would still be very young for the league in daytona, and he hasnt done too well in tennessee so that wouldn’t be a problem to me. Ideally, the Cubs decide Alcantara is good enough to play short and they just promote him to iowa, he’s shown his bat is good enough to move him up to me.

  5. ETS

    Alcantara to Iowa – problem solved. Love to see him and Watkins up the middle of the field.

  6. Jp3

    YEAH!!!! What is funny that following his 4 homer game i wanted to see how he handled it and the D-Cubs couldn’t play due to wet grounds… **sad face😪**. I’ve never been bummed out ever that bad because of a rainout

  7. Oswego chris

    Okay…gonna hope to see at least a few innings today..I am going to wear my BN shirt and I will keep track of how many comments I get…also, gonna look for any media types to hawk my book to…

    1. mudge

      A huge storm is predicted, check weather before you leave.

  8. Rich H

    On another site the other day we got into a conversation about Baez’s error and what they really mean. Let me break it down for you. 11 error are throwing errors. 15 are fielding. His Zone rating is 4.93 (to put into context 4.89 by Cabrera led the majors last year). Meaning he is getting to more balls than a majority of short stops in all of baseball. His chances are exceptional.

    So the telling fact of the matter is that RIGHT NOW Baez is a heck of a short stop. This is why I keep screaming about how worthless errors as a gauge of defensive in the minors. Baez is going to be a major league short stop he just has to clean some stuff up and I expect that to happen really quickly as he moves up in the system. Will he stay at short? I do not know because he is going to grow and his chances are going to do down as his body matures but right now he is a short stop and a damn good one.

    1. Bilbo161

      I like your take on his D.

    2. Toby

      Unforunately errors DO count in all levels of baseball, even Little League. I’m sure he could have avoided many of the throwing errors simply by holding onto the ball. The lower levels of the minors are the ideal place to clean that stuff up.

      1. hansman1982

        It all depends on what the errors are coming from. Is it that he is a bad defender? Then, yes, it matters.

        The reason you say errors shouldn’t be the concern is because there is so much that is being worked on you expect errors. All of the great defensive players had years of ungodly error totals.

      2. Rich H

        Errors do count but you ask one scout if they matter and they will all tell you the same thing. IT MATTERS THE CONTEXT. The reason I brought up the break down and his zone rating is because he is playing with guys that couldn’t catch a cold at first base. His chances to get to the ball is as good as it gets.

        1. Kyle

          I think “Errors need context” makes a lot more sense than “errors don’t matter.”

          Baez has the tools to play SS. He wouldn’t be the first guy in history to have the tools but not the consistency to play SS and have to move to another position.

          1. Rich H

            Dang Kyle we disagree for once. LOL. I would have thought that you would be as sold as I am by now if you looked at everything together. Then again you always seem to wait and make a solid assessment. So I will hold a seat in the “Short Stop of the future” club right next to me so we can gripe about his silly K/rate then.

            1. Kyle

              I’m not necessarily against you, either.

              Javier Baez may or may not be able to play SS in the major leagues. I don’t think his errors disqualify him yet, but I don’t think it’s automatic that he’ll make the transition from “toolsy, projects to SS” to “actual MLB SS.”

              Especially because his bat is probably two years away from the majors *at most.* Probably less. If he had three more years in the minors to work on his defense, it’d be easier on him.

              1. Bilbo161

                Agree. But, would love to see Baez push the timeline. Hope he can keep up steady improvement in his batting approach and calm himself more on D.

              2. Rich H

                That is a fair assessment. His bat is way ahead of his glove that is for sure. I am just thinking out loud on most of this topic and dreaming a little bit this morning. I have just actually started looking really deep into Baez at short because of all the naysayers about his errors. What I have seen in certain defensive matrix is that not only is a good potential short stop but a potentially game changing one.

  9. Joker

    The glut is good to have, especially if you need to kick in a decent prospect on a summer trade of a Feldman/Garza/DeJesus to sweeten the return.

  10. willis

    You do what is best for Baez’ development, and move Alcantara to 2B or Iowa. If that hurts Torreyes so what. He’ll never be what those two will be and they need the playing time together. You never know they could be the up the middle future. With Villanueva at 3B that’s a fun little infield. My guess is by the end of the month Baez is with Tennessee and maybe Soler too.

  11. Stevie B

    I wouldn’t be bummed if Castro was traded…..

    Maybe that’s what the FO had in mind when they went with Bryant … ???

    1. ETS

      The only thing they had in mind was that Gray was too big of a wildcard to waste a second overall on. They wanted the best player. They didn’t have some plan devised to trade castro before they took bryant.

    2. hansman1982

      It depends on the return for Castro.

      and

      Not a chance in hell.

    3. David

      No. People need to stop thinking that draft picks are made with any kind of thought to what is going on at the major league level (especially in terms of need positions or anything like that and ESPECIALLY with regard to a #2 pick).

      They took who they thought the best player available on their board was. If less than nothing were possible, the pick of Bryant would say less than nothing about how they feel about Starlin Castro.

  12. Mr. Gonzo

    How does Castro project at 2B, in the event that Baez comes up as a SS of the future? I realize we are a few years away from this problem, just curious.

    1. Rich H

      Center field until Almora is ready would be my choice but 2nd could work. Would rather keep is instincts up the middle if they can.

      1. Mr. Gonzo

        Thanks Rich! An infield of Rizzo, Castro, Baez, and Bryant is only a wet dream at this point, but a damn fine one!

  13. Jacob

    Gotta love that problem… too many legit prospects at one level. I can’t wait til that’s the MLB/AAA discussion… haha

  14. Toy

    I think we need to see if Baez’s hot streak is just a streak or an indication that something finally clicked. We also need to see a good level of improvement in the field before a promotion is even considered.

    One great week in June doesn’t mean squat to me.

    1. Rich H

      It is not a week it is a Matt Holiday type month. He has raised is OPS 200 points in month. The adjustment period is over and the damage has been pretty consistent.

  15. Tyron

    So who gets traded here Barney or Castro
    How bout both an thro garza inn
    For pitching

    1. TWC

      I had a pleasant stay at the Garza Inn (just north of Albuquerque) a few years back.

      1. Headscratchin

        That kind of sounds like the infamous Hotel California…

  16. Norm

    I don’t think the bump from AA to AAA is all that big of a deal to feel like they are rushing Alcantara.

    And yet again, I feel like people are under rating Torreyes. He’s the youngest player in the Southern League, is a league average offensive player, he walks more than he strikes out, and he plays good defense at 2B (from what I remember?).

    He probably won’t amount to much, but they won’t just cast him aside.

  17. Rich H

    I will be honest with you all. My opinion on Baez has changed A LOT in the last month as I have gotten more in to the peripherals around his stats. I am now totally in the keep Baez camp where at the beginning of the year I was in the what kind of returned can we get for him. This kid is going to be special (and it was not just his 4 homer day). He seems to take a bit to adjust to the level but when he does WATCH OUT. I am hoping for a trip to AA soon and if he adjusts quickly maybe a cup of coffee in September where I was saying that for next year before the season started.

    Is he our top prospect? I do not know I think you can throw a dart at any of our top 3 and be right (I am not putting Bryant into that class until we see something or he at least signs a contract).

    1. gocatsgo2003

      “Take a bit to adjust to the level”? Dude has a grand total of 340 PAs at high-A!

      1. Rich H

        And he skuffed up real bad until this last month when it started to slow down for him.

        1. gocatsgo2003

          So you’re saying something like 200-250 PAs (not going to get the exact number of PAs he had before this month) is “a bit” of time? That’s more like a third or less of a season — seems like a pretty reasonable of time to expect adjustments to a higher level of play.

          1. Rich H

            Yes on some players it takes as much as a 1/3 of a season to get everything to slow down espcially when he has a list of things that our front office says he needs to work on in his head.

            Remember that every player has a training plan that they are going over with management. So the same reason that you seen a guy like Almora come in and dominate his level you get the flip side and an adjustment period. People adjust at different rates. That does not mean he is loosing anything. It means that his adjustments have to become a permanent part of his game. And that takes time.

  18. Dan

    I would like to see them give Alcantara a shot at AAA. If he continues to succeed, then let him fight for the 2B job next year.

  19. NCCubbie

    So is this the plan for the Cubbie Future:
    1b Rizzo
    2b Castro
    ss Baez
    3b Bryant
    C Castillo
    RF Soler
    CF Alamrilo
    LF – ??????

    SP – Smardy
    SP – Wood
    SP – Jackson(unless they can move him)
    SP – Free Agent Stud
    SP – Minor League stud

    1. Kyle

      “SP – Minor League stud”

      Somewhere a budding cryptozoologist is writing his thesis on Cubs Minor League Starting Pitching Stud.

      1. willis

        Who’s Alamrilo? Is he any good?

        And “stud minor league pitcher” doesn’t exist in this organization.

    2. hansman1982

      1. Smardy????
      2. What’s the over/under on the number of weeks until the “ZOMG JUST GET RID OF JACKSON ANY WAY IMAGINABLE” posts cease to exist?

    3. Rich H

      In a word? No. The plan is to build for the future and trade for pieces so any idea of the line up in 2014 or 2015 is premature.

  20. Stevie B

    This is all just speculation of course, yet the eye cannot be easily deceived…Starlin is lazy, and lazy players get exposed then conquered.
    We signed him to that contract, which provided him security. When people get secure they lose their edge…..well, lazy people do.

    1. Kyle

      This analysis is lazy, and lazy analysis gets called out then eyerolled.

      1. hansman1982

        Question: Does lazy analysis get conquered?

        1. Kyle

          Not unless someone’s got a Conquering Fist of Logic out there waiting. ’round here, it gets crushed.

    2. mjhurdle

      The eye can be deceived very, very easily.

  21. FastBall

    I think Theo will be packaging some of these guys like Torreyes in some of our trades in the next 45 days. That or we need to start up another A+ or AA franchise in a different part of the country. We may not have enough pitching to do that but we have enough position players for sure. The Cubs are going to have some challenges. We probably still have quite a few roster fillers in the system. In the past we needed them. Now that we have drafted so well and sign IFA’s much better than in the past it’s time to purge the fillers. We only have room for about 170 players in the organization. Hopefully we can trade some for need.

    1. gocatsgo2003

      You think a LOT of things. And because I do not know the answer and am too lazy to look it up, is there a history of any team ever having multiple high-A or AA teams?

  22. FastBall

    I didn’t count the DR academy

  23. terencemann

    I believe that so long as Baez is not being challenged, he will not see any reason to make adjustments (why would you with his OPS). It is probably in his best interest to move him up to AA if he keeps this up.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      He was being challenged plenty a month ago.

  24. cubbie blue thru n thru

    IMO he needs moved up to AA for the simple fact that he plays everyday, the 3-4 rainouts a week at Daytona are coming. Although I hear Daytona has great facilities, I think its time to start thinking about moving to the Cali league when our Daytona contract is up

  25. BluBlud

    The good comp for Baez would Adam Jones. Jone’s career high walk rate is 6.9% in 2009 and has never been higher then 5% any other year. However, he consistenly hits .280 or better and close to 20 HRs a year or more in the last 2 years and this year. I think baez has more power potential then Jones, and just as good of a hit stick. I think any of us would take jones in our lineup rightnow, as most GM’s would also. Baez is also doing this at an even more premium defensive position at SS. If Baez does nothing but duplicate Jones numbers, while play SS or even 2B, I think everyone would agree that he is worth holding on to. I hope he is promoted soon.

    1. Kyle

      I think that’s a pretty good projection for Baez. An Adam Jones who can play the infield. That’d be a very nice player to have.

  26. another JP

    The inevitable Baez promotion will have a ripple effect at other levels that will probably mean some position movement for guys like Alcantara whose bat and development cannot be subdued by a platoon situation. What’s interesting that moving Arismendy to 2nd @ Iowa would mean something needs to happen with Watson- and he’s another guy who needs ABs. Alcantara probably needs to stay at short and displace Maysonet/Murphy so Baez can move to TN. I can’t help but think some prospect trades are on the way… we’ve been accumulated talent to the point where our top prospects will not have a position available at the next level.

  27. dan

    in the ong run Torreyes wi be our best infielder

    1. Coop

      Why do you hate L’s? Oh, you did sneak one into infielder, though.

  28. Dynastyin2017

    It’s always good to see, but it is still a small sample size. Baez has had 6 bad weeks and 5 very good weeks. Obviously he has made an adjustment, but have they become instinct yet?
    Let this play out through June in Daytona, then see.
    Besides, if Boros would get moving, I’d love to see a few weeks of a:

    Baez
    Bryant
    Soler
    Geiger

    middle of the order at Daytona.

  29. dying cubs fan's last request

    I love to see these offensive guys doing good and everything but i really wish we had more good pitching prospects.

  30. nkniacc13

    The other thing that will be interesting with in the next month and half is the 40 man roster. You have to think that most of the trades the Cubs make will be for players that wont need to be put on 40 man. The other thing is maybe the move a player or 2 that is on the 40 man that hasn’t made the majors yet or that maybe Rule 5 eligible this offseason as a way to prevent some of that number crunch

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