javier baez aflAt 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.

  • jon

    “Almora will be a Darwin Barney, or a slightly better hitting Barney in CF”

    This will go down as an all time classic quote, thanks BlueBalls.

    • ssckelley

      The fact that Blu measures prospects by whether or not they have power is all you need to know.

      I would argue that Almora has a higher floor than Baez solely based on how good defensively Almora is.

      • jon

        It would be one thing to say to say Almora will only be better than Barner(factoring the total player, including defense) still wrong, but less worse. Darwin Barney has a career wOBA of 281. There are probably dozens, if not more prospects right now in the Cubs minor league system that could eclipse this if given the chance.

        • jon

          “Almora will only be a slightly better Barney” is how that should have read ^

      • Rich H

        I think that Almora has a floor that is close to league average right now. Baez’s floor is Mickey Tettleton. Think about that one for a second. Two kids between 19 and 20 already have a floor of servicable big league players. Who has the highest is kind of a moot point.

        • ssckelley

          I was thinking Danny Tartabull, another slugger who came up as a shortstop and struck out a lot as a floor for Baez. But I agree on arguing who has a higher floor, Almora having a higher floor I just my opinion. Blublud does not think much of Almora because he has not hit 30 homers in the minors. On my scorecard Almora is just as good of a prospect as Baez because he makes more contact and is better defensively at his position. The only thing Baez has over Almora is power and he has avoided the injury bug.

  • Die hard

    Minor league stats are about as valuable a predictor as a weatherman — don’t buy playoff tkts yet

    • KBwsb

      One of the main tenants of Bill James, and sabermetrics in general: minor-league stats are exactly as predictive as major-league stats.

      You will, no doubt, immediately come up with a few obvious cases of minor-league stars who flamed out in MLB. Just keep in mind, that precisely the same thing happens in the majors. How are very recent MVP’s Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton doing this year? R.A. Dickey? Most players do fluctuate from year-to-year, but guys who can hit minor-league pitching tend to stay that way.

  • http://Bleachernation Oliver

    Baez at 2nd next year.
    A hard hitting rookie at 3rd , a new left fielder.
    Barney gone, our supposed ace pitcher gone,
    A rookie speedster in center fielder..

    Add some speed and a few question marks.
    Can’t be worse than the past 2 years.