This is some pleasant news.
After turning it on at High-A Daytona – so much so that he was named the organization’s Player of the Month for June – it looks like top prospect Javier Baez is being promoted to AA Tennessee. The young shortstop has largely cemented his status as the best prospect in the Cubs’ organization on the strength of a .274/.338/.535 line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. At just 20, Baez was on the younger side for the league, and he’ll now be very young for the Southern League.
It’s funny and exciting to see this promotion when, just a month or two ago, we all would have said Baez’s teammate Jorge Soler was at least as likely to see a July promotion to AA Tennessee, if not more so. Thanks to a stress fracture in his tibia, Soler remains nominally at High-A while he rehabs, and Baez is headed up the ladder. What may have triggered the promotion for Baez is his rapidly falling strikeout rate – which was tickling an unacceptable 30% earlier this year and is now at a still-not-great-but-trending-well 23.1% – and his rapidly improving walk rate – which is now a career best 6.2%.
Baez will be challenged at Tennessee for the rest of this season, and I’m sure everyone would be ecstatic if he put himself into a position to be discussed for a look at AAA by this time next year, if not sooner. Many say that the most difficult adjustment in the minor leagues is the one from High-A to AA, so we’ll see how Baez handles it.
What Baez’s promotion means for the rest of the Tennessee roster will be interesting. With Roni Torreyes sent off to the Astros, second base largely opened up for – in theory – Arismendy Alcantara to work there more regularly. If that’s the plan, then the promotion of Baez simply slides him into that open shortstop spot. If, however, the Cubs want Alcantara to continue to get regular work at shortstop, it may take an aggressive promotion of Alcantara, who is, himself, is just 21.