At this point, I’m convinced that Javier Baez is the Chicago Cubs’ top prospect.
Yes, I know some will dispute that, and I won’t hate on anyone that does. Indeed, I’ll chalk up those disputes to “wow, how awesome is the top of the Cubs’ system when people can credibly argue that Javier Baez is not the top guy?” For me, however, Baez’s eminence was made plain when I found myself almost daily writing about the latest absurdly awesome thing Baez had done. It’s almost easy to forget that he hit four homers in a game back in June at High-A Daytona.
The final tallies: 274/.338/.535 line in 337 plate appearances at High-A Daytona, and a .294/.346/.638 line in 240 plate appearances at AA Tennessee. That’s a .282/.341/.578 total line on the year, with 37 homers, 111 RBI, 20 stolen bases (just 4 CS), and 34 doubles.
He was 20. Baez is a shortstop. He was at High-A and AA. Take all of this together, and you can’t overstate how fantastic Baez’s season was. For me, that’s enough to make him the top prospect in the system. For GM Jed Hoyer, that’s enough to say that Baez had the most impressive season he’s ever seen.
“Personally, in my career, it’s as good a minor league season as I’ve seen,” Hoyer told Jesse Rogers of Baez’s 2013 campaign. Hoyer pointed to Baez’s slugging percentage at AA, in particular, as evidence of just how special the season has been. “There’s a list of guys that slugged over .600 at his age,” he told Rogers. “It’s a pretty special list.”
From here, Baez heads to the Arizona Fall League – together with, among others, the three other members of The Big Four (Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant) – where he’ll play shortstop, second base, and third base, and the Cubs will evaluate his positional progress.
However he does, though, Hoyer cautioned that he doesn’t see Baez breaking Spring Training with the big club. As I’ve mentioned before, even if Baez were deemed ready by March 31, the Cubs would be foolish to start him immediately in the big leagues when keeping him down until late April – just a few weeks – would net them an entire extra year of control (which would come when Baez was in his prime). By waiting until late June or July, the Cubs could also avoid Super Two status for Baez (a lesser, but still legitimate consideration). Setting aside those considerations, Baez may simply need more seasoning at AA or AAA before the big leagues enter into the picture, especially if he starts playing a new position.
I can’t wait to see how (and where) Baez plays this Fall when the AFL opens October 8, together with how well his teammates play. It’s not quite the October baseball we’re all hoping for, but it’s still pretty cool.