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javier baez aflThe World Series is over and the offseason has arrived. It is time to turn our eyes back to the minors and take a look at some of the prospects in the Cubs’ organization. The goal here is not to re-rank those prospects (that comes next year) or to assess the strengths and weaknesses of farm as a whole (that also comes next year). The goal for this series is to take each prospect individually, study the progress made so far, and see what we can learn about the future for that player.

To start things off, though, I will go straight to the top of the list. By far the most talked about prospect within Cub circles this year is Javier Baez. So let’s break down the prolific slugger and see how he is measuring up.

Javier Baez, SS/INF
Born: December 1, 1992
Acquired: First round of the 2011 draft (9th player taken overall).

Season Summary

Baez spent the 2013 season putting up numbers that do not seem real. He struggled tremendously at the start of the season in Daytona, so much so that many fans were rushing to judgment and proclaiming him a total bust on the basis of a very small sample of plate appearance. But then, in the span of about a week, he turned his season around and began show a total mastery of High A pitching.

Then he went to Double A and repeated the pattern – early struggles followed by tremendous success.

But here’s the almost unreal part: his season numbers with the Double A Smokies are better across the board than his numbers with Daytona. Just compare the lines.

In Daytona (337 PA over 76 G) Baez posted an impressive slash line of .274/.338/.535. His wOBA clocked in at .391 and his wRC+ a weighty 145. He struck out 23.1% of the time against a walk rate of 6.2%. His ISO calculates to .261 with a BABIP of .310.

That, my friends, is the description of a very, very impressive season. I could stop there and have a case for making Baez the best prospect in the organization and one of the ten best in all of baseball. There’s more.

In Tennessee (240 PA over 54 G) Baez produced the even better slash line of .294/.346/.638. His wOBA jumped to a ridiculous .435 with an wRC+ of 180. The walk rate went up to 7.9%, the ISO jumped to a stunning .344, and his BABIP finished at .333.

Oh, and despite playing in 22 fewer games for the Smokies, he actually hit more home runs in Double A (20) than he did in High A (17).

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the single most impressive offensive showing by any prospect I have had the pleasure of witnessing. His ceiling as a player is right up at the top of the chart.

And his floor is somewhere in Japan. Despite the video game numbers, continued success for Baez is not certain. As impressive as his bat speed is and as prolific as his power is proving to be, there are still real and significant questions about Baez’s ability to recognize pitches. Amid the awesomeness that was his Tennessee campaign was one giant red flag; he struck out 28.8% of the time.

Future Outlook

A lot of fans are going to want to look at the good numbers and ignore that K%, and believe me I understand the temptation. After all, anyone who can post huge stats like those Double A figures, in Double A no less, is bound to be so good at baseball that he can’t possibly fail in the majors? Right?

But that simply isn’t how these things work. Before that legendary bat speed can become a significant factor Baez has to be able to recognize the pitch. We do not know for sure that he lacks that skill (more on that in a minute), but we do not know he has it, either. It remains possible, very possible, that Baez is one of those very powerful sluggers that simply cannot avoid striking out at a high rate in the minors. Those are the guys that are often branded AAAA players and who have brief major league careers, if in fact they have one at all. That is the floor for Baez. He will win chances with his power and bat speed, but if the eye is not there Triple A and Major League pitching will handle him with ease.

In this scenario, the Cubs would be smart to deal Baez now while his trade value is at an all-time high.

On the other hand, there is reason to think that his elevated strikeout rate has more to do with his approach and aggressiveness at the plate than it does with his ability to recognize pitches. To start with we can see from his numbers that he was able to improve on his strikeout rate to a remarkable degree within the season. Here are his K% numbers by month.

Daytona
April – 27.7%
May – 22.2%
June – 20.0%
July – 16.7% (3 games)

Tennessee
July – 33.7%
August – 24.2%
September – 37.5% (2 games)

Trend lines like those strongly suggest that Baez’s high K% are the result of his need to adapt to the pitching at each level and of the fact that he is still a very young player learning to refine his game.

I think the eye test also points in this direction. Baez rarely has a weak, tentative, or uncertain swing. He’ll overswing at times, get too aggressive now and then, and has a tendency to try to hit a pitch 400 miles instead of simply 400 feet, but his swings are rarely uncertain. He knows where he expects the ball to be and he is confident that he can hit it there. That is not something I see in many minor league hitters (and something I don’t see in plenty of major league ones). Confidence of that nature, particularly when it is backed by arguably near-historic numbers, makes me suspect that this is a guy who is having no trouble seeing the ball.

If this is the version of reality the Cubs believe, then it would take a king’s ransom to pry to Baez out of Chicago. I lean in this direction myself, and, as a result, would be very surprised to see Baez traded for anything short of a young, cost controlled star.

I could be wrong, though, and I can’t ignore that 28.8% Double A K%, no matter how much I think it is due to factors that do not indicate a severe long term problem.  If you run through the list of players who have struck out at that rate in the Southern League over the last few years you will find very few significant major league players.

On the other hand, you will also find Giancarlo Stanton.

I personally doubt Baez is destined to be a bust, but the red flag is real.  His continued progress will be the subject of careful scrutiny as we head through the early months of next season.

And The Glove?

So where does Baez play? Pick a spot other than catcher or center fielder and I think he’d be fine there. He’ll never get to as many balls at shortstop as Starlin Castro does, but he is probably going to be a safer bet to make the routine play than Castro has proven to be so far. His glove would fit equally well at second or third or in either of the corner outfield slots. I doubt he has the speed to play center, but if you stuck him between good defensive corner outfielder he’d probably do alright. First base would be a cakewalk for him.

I’m not sure that I would be so confident in Baez at short that I would look to deal Castro as the Cubs are rumored to be doing, but I can understand the thinking. Any team that can slot a bat as potent as Baez’s into the middle infield is a team that is a little ahead of the game in terms of overall lineup construction.

On that note, I liked what I saw from the tandem of Baez and second baseman Arismendy Alcantara in Tennessee. There is no certainty that we will see that combo turning double plays in Chicago one day, but it is a distinct possibility (Alcantara will get his own Prospects Progress write up later in the off season).

Prognosis

Baez will once again be the talk of Spring Training in 2014, but I do not see him breaking camp with the Cubs under any circumstances. He’ll head to Iowa and open the year posting a K% in the mid to high 30% range again,and  many fans will label him a bust and rail at the front office for not trading him while they had the chance. Baez will make adjustments and pull his K% down into the mid to low 20% range. And, after it stays there for 100 PAs or so, he will head to Chicago. I doubt his Major League debut takes place before June 15, but it will take place in 2014 (barring injury). It may not be until 2015, though, before we get a good idea how well he will be able to hit in the majors. He has the potential to be a perennial MVP candidate, but it remains to be seen how much of that potential will be fully realized.

  • On The Farm

    Nice write up Luke. Always enjoy your take on the Cubs minor league situation.

  • louis

    Awesome article! I Can’t wait to see Baez hit a moonshot onto a rooftop.

    • beerhelps

      Maybe right at Beth Murphy?

  • JB88

    One trend that some posters touched upon during Baez’s AA games was that even during his better stretches he tended to strike out late in games when TN was in the lead.

    I haven’t researched that to see whether that is a case of confirmation bias, but, if there is something to that, I would tend to be slightly encouraged that Baez was simply losing focus late and that, due in part to small sample sizes, his rate seems slightly elevated.

    • Lou Brown

      Well he shouldn’t have that problem too often with the ML club….

    • On The Farm

      Not sure about this, but through my quick (although not completely thorough) research, I found that there was 22 Games in which Baez struck out and the team lost, and 23 games in which the team won and Baez struck out. In 93 PAs (in losses) he struck out 41 times. In 108 PAs (in wins) he struck out 34 times. I am not sure about the whole striking out with team in the lead (the aforementioned concentration issues), but it looks like in small samples he struck out more in games when they lost, then in games he won.

      • cavemencubbie

        Not to be argumentative but could this not be a chicken/egg debate. Did they lose because Baez struck out, rather than they were losing and Baez lost concentration and struck out? I think this is just random statistical noise.

        • On The Farm

          Not at all. I have no clue, especially since the largest sample is 108 PAs, but I just wanted to point out that he did strike out more in losses than he did in games that they won. I am not sure (and now that I think about it, pretty certain) that my previous post really proves anything. I am just not sure if Baez really gives up/doesn’t care just because they are winning. I would assume every time Baez walked to the plate in AA his intention was to hit a HR and if he was unlucky end up on second base.

          • EQ76

            I can’t imagine any hitter walks up the plate anytime with a lack of concentration. When i played (through college) I never once cake-walked through an at bat.. no matter what the score or circumstance.. i can’t imagine one of these dudes doing that.

            • JB88

              Cake walked is probably not the right way to phrase it, but I’m sure there were times that you were more focused on an at-bat versus other times. Nobody is 100% focused 100% of the time. I just wonder whether, given Baez’s age and the purported late game Ks, he had a tendency this season to take his foot off the gas.

      • I love marmol

        Or maybe the team doesn’t hit as well against a good pitcher and tends to strike out more and lose?

  • Big Daddy

    Man, I hope 2 or 3 of these guys pan out. I would love to take my dad to a world series game at Wrigley.

  • CubFan Paul

    If he can bring back proven major league talent or major league ready pitching I’d trade him in a heartbeat.

  • Professor Snarks

    Luke, this is the best analysis I have ever seen on Baez. Optimistic with a dash of caution.
    I, too, am concerned about the k rate, but think it can come down a bit. We all need to remember, he has never had more than 400 at bats at any level. I have a feeling if he repeated a level, his numbers would be silly. I doubt we see that in the minors.

    • Noah_I

      Baez has also consistently been one of the youngest players at his level, especially in Double A.

  • hansman

    “so much so that many fans were rushing to judgment and proclaiming him a total bust on the basis of a very small sample of plate appearance.”

    To be fair, there were those of us that railed that he was going to be a total bust based on his absurd K rates throughout his entire career. Not just the sample size in April and early May.

    • DarthHater

      Pigeon, meet hole. :-P

      • hansman

        It’s cozy…

    • Professor Snarks

      Would you trade him for Stanton, straight up?

      • hansman

        That’s a tough one. He has a chance of becoming a more-valuable Stanton. But Stanton has the power of Baez with fewer Ks and double the amount of walks. But Baez plays THE premier position.

        Can I trade Bryant instead?

        • CubChymyst

          Think I’d trade Baez instead of Bryant in that scenario. Don’t have a large sample size yet but I think Bryant would put up the better walk numbers vs Baez with similar power.

        • Scotti

          Stanton struck out more in the minors (26.4%) than has Baez (24.0%) and he’s striking out at 28.6% in the majors (189 K per 162 games). Yes, Stanton walks more but he doesn’t strike out less.

          Baez has increased his walk rate, BTW, from 2012 (4.4%) to 2013 (6.9%)–that’s a 56.8% increase year-to-year. That’s to be expected for someone who adds quite a bit of HR power to his game. Pitchers will pitch around him and he needs to take what is given to him. I expect another bump in walk % in 2014 since he’ll enter the season as a bona fide HR hitter. IBB alone will account for a decent increase (Baez has had a total of 3 whereas Stanton had 18 in MiLB).

          I doubt Baez gets his walks into Stanton territory but walks will be a significant part of his game, methinks. I’d guess around 8-9%. Perhaps higher. Stanton has a MiLB walk rate of 11.7% and a MLB walk rate of 11.2%. While on the surface one could project Baez to be in the ballpark of his current MiLB walk rate of 5.9% walk rate (thus just over half of Stanton’s 11.7%) but that doesn’t take into account Baez’s increases. IMHO, no way will Stanton be anywhere near double Baez’s walks.

          Re. would I trade them straight up? Hell no. Not even close. Stanton has trouble staying on the field and, when he does get out there, his position is a net loss, his fielding of that position is a net loss and his base running is a net loss. He hits HR and takes walks. That’s valuable. At least it is when you can make it out on to the field.

          • hansman

            “Stanton struck out more in the minors (26.4%) than has Baez (24.0%)”

            Stanton was also a year younger at each step than Baez has been.

            “Yes, Stanton walks more but he doesn’t strike out less.

            Baez has increased his walk rate, BTW, from 2012 (4.4%) to 2013 (6.9%)–that’s a 56.8% increase year-to-year. ”

            Well, Baez, in 2013 had a higher K rate than Stanton but 2 levels removed from the bigs. Also, his K rate increased 5 percentage points jumping from A+ to AA. I think the jump in Ks and BBs are explained, more easily, with the idea that more pitches are getting past Baez than they used to.

            “IBB alone will account for a decent increase (Baez has had a total of 3 whereas Stanton had 18 in MiLB). ”

            IBB should never be considered as part of a player’s walk rate.

            “While on the surface one could project Baez to be in the ballpark of his current MiLB walk rate of 5.9% walk rate (thus just over half of Stanton’s 11.7%) but that doesn’t take into account Baez’s increases. IMHO, no way will Stanton be anywhere near double Baez’s walks.”

            It’s pretty rare that players double their MiLB walk rate when jumping to the bigs. We also have far more data that suggests that Baez will not take a significant amount of walks than we have data that suggests that Baez is below-average at taking walks (SOUL average last year was in the 9% range).

            “his fielding of that position is a net loss and his base running is a net loss.”

            Unless Stanton, somehow, completely forgot how to field a ball between 2012 and 2013, he is an above-average RF defender. In terms of baserunning, not sure what you are using to calculate how he is able to erase the positive effects of a .368 wOBA by baserunning (is he getting thrown out on home runs?).

            “Stanton has trouble staying on the field”
            Even with injury issues, he is still contributing starting level WAR in his worst seasons. Or he could go on to play 10 straight years of 150+ games a year.

            If I could, I would rather trade Bryant over Baez. Basically, with the limited data we have, Bryant appears to be a prospect version of Stanton but Staton has proven he can hit MLB pitching.

            • Scotti

              “Stanton struck out more in the minors (26.4%) than has Baez (24.0%)”

              “Stanton was also a year younger at each step than Baez has been.”

              Age is immaterial. Experience is what counts (a player, without experience, doesn’t get better, regardless of how much he ages–experience improves the player (it’s a neural pathway thing)). They both played HS ball then played minor league ball. Both were highly thought of, high draft picks and played in the area code games, etc. The only caveat would be if a younger player is physically underdeveloped (neither was). One played in CA and one in FLA–both major breeding grounds for ball players.

              “Well, Baez, in 2013 had a higher K rate than Stanton but 2 levels removed from the bigs.”

              I’m an apples to apples guy. Using your metric (A+/AA to Stanton’s 4th year in the majors) the older Stanton loses out to the A+/AA Stanton but, it should be self evident, that’s a silly comparison. MiLB to MiLB. Level to level. That stuff makes sense. A+/AA to 4th year MLB is goofy.

              “Also, his K rate increased 5 percentage points jumping from A+ to AA. I think the jump in Ks and BBs are explained, more easily, with the idea that more pitches are getting past Baez than they used to.”

              More K’s = fewer opportunities to walk (and hit), not more. The most basic, and widely accepted, reason that HR hitters walk more is because pitchers are more careful when they pitch to them.

              To this point, Baez’s BB/K % climbed every step of the way as well. If he was swinging and missing so much more that he was walking more then his BB/K would get worse, as a percentage, and not better. If that were not the case, then the answer to all of our prospects would be “Swing and miss more so you can increase your BB/K percentage.”

              http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=sa597757&position=SS#advanced

              “It’s pretty rare that players double their MiLB walk rate when jumping to the bigs.”

              A) Baez has more MiLB AB to go. He has yet to set his baseline for minor league BB%. B) Baez has increased his BB% each level/year he has played: 0% (R/A-), 3.8% (A), 5.8% (A+ ’12), 6.2% (A+ ’13) and 7.9% (AA). That is a trend.

              “IBB should never be considered as part of a player’s walk rate.”

              A) It simply is. Go make that argument to fangraphs, ESPN, Stats, Inc., etc. B) I completely disagree. Player X gets pitched around and walked and that is to Player X’s value. Whether that BB winds up being an IBB or straight the issue is the same–the pitcher (who controls where the ball goes) fears Player X. How many of Barry Bonds’ 120 IBB in 2004 happened after the pitcher fell behind? How many would have happened if the pitcher got ahead in the count? Counting them in BB% is simply the right thing to do. It tells you how often a batter walked and how often the pitcher preferred to walk him vs. pitching to him (again, except in rare cases, pitchers control who gets walked NOT batters).

              Now, to be fair, someone like Brett Butler had a great ability to draw a walk. Pitchers had little reason to walk him (no power) and plenty of reason to not walk him (plenty of speed). And yet, through his first 2,401 PA he averaged 66 non-IBB walks per 162 G (658 PA). Barry Bonds, through his first 2,388 PA averaged 70 non-IBB per 162 G (683 PA).

              I would argue that Butler had a greater innate ability/skill to draw a walk than did Bonds. But little, fast guys like Butler drawing walks is very rare. It’s the BIG HR guys that walk. Not because they swing and miss more but because the pitcher doesn’t want to lose to that HR hitter when he can pitch to an inferior hitter.

              • When the Music’s Over

                Age is absolutely not immaterial.

                • Scotti

                  First, thanks for sharing that well thought out comment. I really like how you were striving to give texture and form to your argument…

                  Second, tell that to Theo and Hoyer who drafted 22-y/o freshman Jacob Hannemann in the 3rd round. Were did they send him? Daytona where he would have been AGE appropriate or Boise where he was EXPERIENCE appropriate? Why did they draft him in the first place? He has no shot of ever getting to MLB before he’s too old to make a difference. Or, wait, is age not really significant but experience is?

                  As I said (and you can argue with the science on this till the cows come home but you won’t change a single fact), EXPERIENCE develops neural pathways NOT age. Time passing, or not, provides ZERO neural pathways, zero hand-eye coordination, zero foot-eye coordination, etc.

                  Again, “age appropriate level” is really just Lazy for “experience appropriate level.” If a kid is dominating AA but he has 1,000 prior AB there it doesn’t matter if he is “AGE appropriate.” He is “EXPERIENCE inappropriate.”

                  Conversely, as with Jacob Hannemann, he was “AGE INappropriate” at Boise so folks don’t look at him as legitimate. The dude is a legitimate five-tool player. He was EXPERIENCE appropriate at Boise (.290/.313/.468/.780). His line at BYU (.344/.415/.553/.968) was incredible, especially given that he dominated later in the season (after the two-year rust was off AND when they faced tougher, conference play).

                  I’ve been heavily following Cubs prospects for over 35 years now. It’s what I do as an avocation. Hundreds upon hundreds of prospects have come and gone. AGE appropriate is simply lazy misspeak for EXPERIENCE appropriate.

                  As I said above, there are rare times where age matters (projectability on an underdeveloped body, for the most part). Stanton was FAR from underdeveloped (he was the same size as Kris Bryant is today–6’5″, 205#). So Stanton and Baez both had very good competition (CA, FLA), were well known and got to play in the summer/fall showcases/leagues, played high school and came directly to MiLB, etc. Their respective experiences were very similar. The fact that one was roughly a year older is meaningless.

                  Parenthetically, a whole slew of underdeveloped bodies never develop no matter how much mayo you put on their ham sandwiches (CJ Edwards, Juan Cruz, etc.). Projectability is often more chicken blood and sleight of hand than real science. Maybe a guy eats, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he works hard, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he does but all the protein drinks and hard work just don’t alter his body composition much.

                  One guy who never hears the word projectability in the same area code as his name is Dan Vogelbach. That’s a shame because all of the work he reportedly puts into his body is body composition every bit as much as what the skinny guys are trying to do, just in reverse.

                  • ssckelley

                    I have a feeling Hannemann is in that next wave of prospects that we will all be arguing about next off season. The problem with Vogelbach is he plays a position where you can place almost anybody that is a plus hitter. He did have some drop offs last year from the year before. His bat has to carry him through the minors and is a strong candidate to be traded to the AL once he gets closer to the majors.

                    • X The Cubs Fan

                      Ive thought that since we first drafted him, he’s our Ellsbury and Bryants our Pedroia.

            • ssckelley

              hansman, you willing to trade Bryant over Baez. Is this because of the position Baez plays or based on some of your statistical stuff? Of the 2 Bryant appears to be more polished as a hitter than Baez.

              • hansman

                Nothing really statistical. Bryant doesn’t have much of a sample to go off.

                I just see his ceiling as being Stanton but at third base. Seeing that he is most likely destined for RF, I see him as being Stanton but with the risk that he won’t actually be able to hit in the bigs. So, this would let us keep the production that Bryant offers, but more of a sure thing and take the high-risk high-reward gamble that is Baez.

                • ssckelley

                  If you get a chance to catch the game tonight just watch Bryant’s swing and ignore the result. You will see what gets scouts so excited about him. He did not play last night so I would expect him to be in the lineup tonight.

  • Ralph

    Good Stuff Luke, thanks.

  • Bill

    Stanton is to injury prone.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Yes, go on. He is to injury prone as he is to what?

      • DarthHater

        Stanton is to injury prone as Cubbie Blues is to grammar nazi. :-P

        • Cubbie Blues

          to, too, two, there, their, they’re: It’s not a hard concept and I’ve seen them misused with regularity lately. It is one of those things that just grates on me.

          • On The Farm

            Just like your and you’re, and then and than. I can understand misusing principle and principal, effect and affect.

            Did people even go to high school?

            (rant over)

            • Cubbie Blues

              High School? I would correct my 7 & 9 year old sons on if they made those mistakes.

              • TWC

                No kidding.

                I think what bothers me even more of late are people who use the phrase “use to” or “suppose to”, rather than the correct “used to” or “supposed to”. It suggests to me that those people have never seen the correct terms in print, and instead attempt to transcribe the elision they hear when the phrases are spoken.

                • Funn Dave

                  Yes those are quite annoying.

              • THEOlogical

                To be fair Cubbie Blues…since we are on a baseball site, wouldn’t critiquing a small sample size of words be too harsh? If he had typed 60-80 words and misspelled 5 of them, then yeah, go right ahead. We should let this kid post a longer narative before being judgmental, right? Give him another dozen or so words and see if he messes up.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  I didn’t say I had seen him misuse them. I said I have seen them misused with regularity (in general) lately.

                • TWC

                  @THEOlogical, that’s kinda funny.

              • hansman

                My 3-year old insists on saying libary. Drives me absolutely NUTS.

                • TWC

                  “Supposably”

                  ::shudder::

                  • Tony_S

                    Should of

                    AYFKM?

                    • Tony_S

                      And “all of the sudden”

                    • Tony_S

                      And this may seem smaller, but annoys me just as much, and it happens with more and more frequency:

                      Anthony Rizzo is one person, therefore he is a first baseMAN, NOT a first basemen, or a 1Bmen. He’s only one person!!!

              • CubsFaninMS

                CubbieBlues, I’m an instructor as a second job. I give students my number in case they need me while working on their labs from home. Here is an excerpt from a text message one of my students sent me recently: “whateva, I jus dont like being so far behind diz long..i worked on diz sh*t til 2 diz morning n still nothing…” I won’t include the rest. It was obviously difficult to read and included a proposition that I’d prefer not putting on here. I mention this because.. some people live busy lives and may not have time to proofread every post they make multiple times. I know I catch myself making mistakes even after proofreading a few times. When it comes down to it, we’re all human. In that respect, correcting grammar is very low on the importance scale when you think about it and, as you can see, it can be amply worse than what you typically see on here.

            • itzscott

              The one that ABSOLUTELY drives me crazy are the folks who think “lose” is spelled “loose”.

              You lose a game sometimes if you have a screw loose.

              • Funn Dave

                My favorite is sneaked vs. snuck. There’s no such word as snuck, and it blows people’s mind when you tell them as much.

                • http://deleted cub2014

                  That two drives me crazy

                • Scotti
                  • Cubbie Blues
                  • Funn Dave

                    Its usage has gotten it into some dictionaries, but normally as an informal, nonstandard, or incorrect term.

                    • Scotti

                      If usage didn’t define the acceptance of words we wouldn’t have any words, whatsoever. If a word has a pristine etymological past, but isn’t used, at some point, the word ceases to be a word and is simply “archaic.” A huge percentage of the words used in our beloved English language started as slang–unacceptable, incorrect non-words.

                      Snuck is now more commonly used than sneaked and, as the brian’s link above shows, is commonly accepted. If you’re writing a paper, a grammar Nazi *may* bust you (the point behind brian’s website). But the word is now more commonly used than its forebear.

                      Here’s a link that shows that, even WITH grammar Nazis (editors), sneaked just barely beats out snuck in US news articles:

                      http://grammarist.com/usage/sneaked-snuck/

                      “People seem to like it, and it appears in even the most editorially scrupulous publications, so at this stage there is no basis for saying snuck is incorrect. It’s just new. ”

                      Now, I DO take umbrage with those who insist that illogical words gain credibility with usage. A word like “irregardless” is illogical regardless of how often used. But snuck doesn’t quite have the same hickeys .

          • Jose’s Eyelid

            It grates on me to

            • Funn Dave

          • MichiganGoat

            Part of this is the result of phone auto correct & fat finger syndrome. I’ll look for it but there was an article in a journal I read a couple of months ago that analyzed the to/too and there/their/they’re mistakes and argued that since social media and especially the phone auto correct became a regular part of how we communicate these nuances of language have become worse.

            • Tony_S

              I kept autocorrect off of my phone for the first few years, then turned it on to see if it made texting family and friends quicker. EVERY time I type “were” (to include that one right there), it autocorrects to “we’re.” It also adds apostrophes for plurals. It is $&@!ing maddening, and I’m certain I could adjust it in settings somehow if I took the time.

              BUT, the larger points here are garbage in garbage out, we’re living in a nation which seems often to lack personal accountability on an astronomical level, and these things have led to a society where individuals are either too lazy to fix it, to stupid to know it’s wrong, or too weak-minded to fathom that the magical computer-phone could be incorrect.

              • Tony_S

                AND SEE!!! The second too didn’t take!! That was unintentional, I TOTALLY typed that last O!!

    • Professor Snarks

      And he strikes out at a consistent 29%. Every year of his big league career.

      • hansman

        Stanton isn’t quite at a 29% K rate (although where he is at is splitting hairs with it not being 29%) AND he has quite the prodigious BB rate.

        Baez will probably do just as bad, if not worse.

        Fun AA comparison:

        Stanton: 22.1% K rate, 18.3% BB rate, .442 OBP, .729 SLG
        Baez: 28.8% K rate, 7.9% BB rate, .346 OBP, .638 SLG

        Both Southern League, both 20. Baez was amazing but Stanton was Zues-level.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Stanton also has walked 11+% of the time. That indicates a somewhat different mechanism behind his K’s than we see for Baez: whereas Baez swings at almost anything close to the plate, Stanton is a “selectively aggressive” type who takes strikes that he cannot drive, at least up to 2 strikes. Taking pitches that you cannot hit leads to deep counts by generating called balls AND called strikes, and thus leads to higher K and BB rates because the batter gets to Ball 3 and Strike 2 much more frequently. Baez’s Strike 2: Ball 3 ratio is almost certainly much, much lower than is Stanton’s.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Whoops: missed with my reply! Well, it compliments Hansman’s, so no big deal….

            • jt

              you could have put it anywhere and it would have worked
              good stuff

        • Professor Snarks

          Two points:

          1). I apologize for overstating Stanton’s k rate. It is 28.6%.

          2). His walk rate is great, but inflated by last years 14.7 %. If he had lineup protection, that is unlikely to happen again.

          • hansman

            I wasn’t looking at career numbers for K rate, just that last year he was at 27.8 (and I did admit I was splitting hairs). If you remove his outlier BB years (which cuts his sample down to only two years) he is at 10.5%. Just removing last year he is at 10%. Prodigious is the wrong word but he is well above-average.

            • Professor Snarks

              Fair enough. I don’t disagree that Mr. Baez has some ???? to his game. I’m just not sold on the fact that he won’t improve. Like I stated earlier, he hasn’t really repeated any level. I think that will tell us the most about Baez. That probably won’t occur until 2015, his second year in the majors.

              • hansman

                I agree with that. 2014 is going to be an intriguing year for him.

        • Leo L

          Baez sucks! Actually, I am exaggerating but the walks do worry me more than the strikeouts.

          • hansman

            This. If an 8% BB rate were average or low-water mark, his K’s would be more livable. There is a good chance he will be Brett Jackson-esque next year in the bigs.

        • Professor Snarks

          Fun comparison….

          Stanton had 1100 pro plate appearances before he REPEATED AA to get those amazing stats.

          Baez had 640 plate appearances before his first exposure to AA.

  • Jacob w

    here’s one that is way out there but I could see an argument for it if Bryant sticks at 3rd and baez can play short. Castro to the (gulp) cardinals for Rosenthal and Martinez and another lower pitcher. would you consider it?

    • CubsFaninMS

      Mike Matheny spoke the other day about the Cardinals having several relievers itching to be converted to starters. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong on this) both Martinez and Rosenthal were starters in the minors and at least one will get the opportunity to be a starter. I believe that would be a good deal for the Cubs, but I doubt the Cardinals bite.

      • Tony_S

        There’s an article or two out there on this, Castro for Miller being the centerpieces, and (did I read this here?) the Cubs potentially wanting Martinez as well, which I (maybe others too?) think would be a very good return for Castro after last year (tinkering or no), but may be overpaying from StL’s perspective.

        Matheny (or was it Mozeliak?) was quoted today I believe as stating he sees Miller as a TOR guy; this could be bumping trade value or could be legit.

        As for their relievers, there’s also quotes out there already saying Rosenthal is their closer next spring, regardless of what he thinks he wants.

  • jt

    nice read
    thanks

    • SH

      +1

      Good to have you back, Luke!

  • Bones

    Which present MLB player presented similar numbers to Baez’s current minor league stats?

    • hansman

      That’s a tough one.

      Most of the MLB high-K sluggers posted a MUCH lower K rate in the minors along with a much higher BB rate.

      Baez, pretty much, would break the mold for successful sluggers if he makes it.

      • YourResidentJag

        Could we say Mark Reynolds?

        • hansman

          Much better at taking walks. K rate is there though.

    • louis

      Longoria or Zimmerman maybe

      • hansman

        Longoria had a superior BB (10-11%) and K rate (18-20%) through the minors.
        Zimmerman K’d at a 13.7% rate

        • hansman

          Scratch that, Zimmerman was at a 14.3%

        • louis

          I misread his post. I was looking at similar stats from major league players this year.

          • hansman

            HOW DARE YOU!!!!11!!!!!!!1111:)

    • ssckelley

      I don’t know about present but Dave Kingman made a nice career out of striking out and hitting the long ball.

  • The Dude Abides

    “Trend lines like those strongly suggest that Baez’s high K% are the result of his need to adapt to the pitching at each level and of the fact that he is still a very young player learning to refine his game.”

    IF this in fact true than get him up to the majors sometime after June 1 and let him “adapt” for the balance of the season. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere next year so let it play out.

    At some point someone has to move up and I’m not sure there will ever be the perfect time or candidate. You have to throw them in the deep end sometime and after two or three months of AAA next year he very well could be a great candidate to see what we have in our farm system. Gary Sheffield, Pedro Alvarez or Gary Scott.

    • Funn Dave

      Idk, I think I’d rather he got more comfortable with AA pitching before trying to tackle big league pitchers. Wouldn’t want him getting frustrated or trying to change his swing too much or anything.

  • daveyrosello

    Since the Cubs will suck once again in 2014, why wouldn’t you want to keep Baez in AAA all year, even if he rips it, to gain an additional year of cost-control? Further, that gives the Cubs an entire year to evaluate Olt in Chicago, decide where to play Bryant, and decide whether Castro stays or goes. I think Baez is in Des Moines until September.

    • Kyle

      This is a very key point. People seem to have the idea that call-ups would alleviate the boredom of a bad season.

      But if we’re awful, there’s a lot less incentive to start burning service time on guys who could probably still use some polishing in the minors.

      • ssckelley

        So we want Baez making adjustments to MLB pitching when the Cubs are trying to win? Bring Baez up when he is ready, I would rather see him making adjustments when the games are not as important. To keep him the minors strictly for player control makes no sense. If the Cubs go that route that means they are keeping Baez in the minors until May of 2015 as that would be the only way they pick up another year of control.

        I don’t think that sends a very good message to the rest of your prospects.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Predicto-meter in terms of full career ultimate major league impact and production.

    1. Almora
    2. Bryant
    3. Baez
    4. Soler

    • DarthHater

      1. Almora/Bryant/Baez/Soler

      Pessimist.

    • ETS

      Will you give me odds if I bet Soler?

    • Scotti

      4. Almora
      3. Bryant
      2. Baez
      1. Soler

    • Blublud

      1) Bryant
      2) Baez
      3) Soler
      4) Almora

      • Scotti

        1) Soler – Big potential and, for me, a high floor.

        2) Baez – We both have him here. For me it’s just because I really like Soler and not because I’m worried about his contact/errors. Not issues for me whatsoever.

        3) Bryant – I’ve seen a lot of his taped BP and I’ve actually never seen a single BP of his where he looks comfortable. There seems to be quite a bit of swing and miss (or swing and dribble) to go with his massive power. I do believe he’s a 3B. He may get pushed off third but he can play there.

        4) Almora – High floor but ceiling doesn’t compare to the above (though he said he was compared to Braun in the draft–needs to find some roids for that to work).

        I’d also put Edwards and Vogelbach very near, in that order. For me it’s Big Six.

    • DarthHater

      Okay, guys, only 21 more possible combinations. Get busy! ;-)

      • Blublud

        The only other logical one would be

        1) Baez
        2) Bryant
        3) Soler
        4) Almora

    • ssckelley

      1 – Almora
      2 – Bryant
      3 – Soler
      4 – Baez (just to piss blub off)

  • North Side Irish

    From the Klaw chat today…

    Reider (Endwell)
    How far away is Soler and what are your expectations of him?

    Klaw (1:31 PM)
    A year or so? Somewhere between July ’14 and July ’15. I think he’s a star. Guy has filled out physically already, big-time bat speed, great athlete.

    • JB88

      It’s funny, but earlier when I said I’d be surprised if one of the four didn’t play in the big leagues at some point in 2014, I almost said that it wouldn’t surprise me if that one is Soler. He already has a pretty advanced approach at the plate compared to Baez and Almora, is on the 40 man roster, and has different salary concerns given his contract. Plus he plays a position where we conceivably have zero regulars locked into his position.

      • hansman

        Soler is about the only prospect I see the Cubs being overly concerned about Super-Two status.

        • JB88

          Yeah, but Super 2 status wouldn’t attach on a mid-summer or late year call up. Unless you are suggesting that the Cubs wait until mid-2015 to call him up, that is.

  • Khross

    That picture of Soler reminds me so much of a Darryl Strawberry baseball card I had(probably still have).

    Don’t crucify me. Just sayin

  • Voice of Reason

    Out of the four, Bryant is a lock to have a major league career. I don’t know how well he’ll hit or where he will play, but that kid is special and will play in the bigs!

    As for the other 3 its a crap shoot. Baez whiffs too much, almora can’t seem to stay healthy though he has all the tools and soler could be the next fukudome.

    But Bryant…. he is special!

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Well, Luke provided the link, so I had to look at what Javier’s K and BB rates looked like month-to-month. (I lumped his few July A+ Pas into June, and his few September PAs into August).
    [img]http://imageshack.com/a/img600/8103/shng.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://imageshack.com/a/img42/2748/jatu.jpg[/img]

    The boxes give the K/PA or BB/PA frequencies. The “error bars” are set so that if they overlap, then you definitely would not reject the idea that the “true” rates are the same.

    Now, the error bars do not entirely overlap, but they do all overlap with at least 2 others, and you always have at least two that overlap with everyone. What that usually indicates is that there is some other process strongly affecting the outcome (like, say, I dunno, quality of the pitching from the opposition!) that is varying in average quality from month-to-month. So, it is not that Javier is “inconsistent”: it is that the opposing pitchers were. (That should be a given, anyway.)

    Now, there might be league effects as well – the first three distributions are A+ and the last two are AA – but Javier alone is not providing enough data to really assess that. His walk rate certainly is completely independent of that, too.

  • ssckelley

    Where the heck has Blub been? He would be all over this.

    • Blublud

      I feel Lukes write-up is 100% accurate. Nothing to comment on at that point.

  • Senor Cub

    I will trade Baez for Stranton any day and twice on Sunday. The difference being that Baez is not MLB ready and could never be. I would rather have the sure thing vs. the potential. As a Cubs fan we’ve been down this road many times. In this case Baez could be the real deal but Stranton already is the real deal.

    • Blublud

      Except that Stanton would cost Baez, Almora, Johnson and Vogs. Or something very similar. Baez and Almora would certainly be included. Plus a soon to be overpaid salary. Guys good, but he’s not that good. I’ll pass everyday and 10 times on Sunday.

  • 5412

    Hi Luke,

    Great write-up. I met Brett when we were at Wrigley earlier this year. You may want to talk to him about our Baez discussion. I have to be very careful, because I know someone inside baseball who knows him very well. Here is what I was told.

    He is a teriffic ball player, but very young with a good bit of growing up to do. Not surprising, he came to this country from Puerto Rico and spent two years in a Jacksonville school that basically barnstormed.

    When I heard he was going to Daytona, that was good for a promotion standpoint, but I was also told he was much too close to home. Another very highly places member of the organization told me some things he had personally observed with Baez in Daytona.

    I commented to him he may play better somewhere else. He looked at me and basically told me I was spot on, with the addition, “check his splits between home and on the road.”

    So far, nothing off base here, give any kid out of high school the money and adulation and they have lots of growing up to do. My reason for the post is to suggest we discount the early Daytona numbers because he was in a process of having to get his priorities and focus where it needed to be…..as I was led to believe.

    Recall this is the kid with the MLB logo tattoo on his neck. The big club took his Mercedes in spring training and had the MLB logo etc painted all over the front hood and rear deck. While it was good natured, I am lead to believe….um…he exudes confidence. I don’t consider that a bad thing; however in time I suspect he will be a bit more mature about it.

    When he got to AA to me is a more realistic sample. He learned and adjusted well. I have watched him in spring training and in the fall league and he is one heck of a hitter. He has lots of potential.

    A good comparison would be Castro with a mentor Soriano. Alfonso helped him with the off field activities and how to handle himself. As Baez matures I suspect he could grow into something pretty special. Hopefully he will find a really good mentor…..which could be the new manager.

    To me, the most important thing in his development is whatever promotion he gets he has to earn like Rizzo did. Rizzo had nothing more to prove in AAA ball. I hope they do not rush Baez for the purpose of selling tickets.

    I truly love your write ups, I see nothing else as complete and honest anywhere.

    Best regards,
    5412

    • Scotti

      Thanks for the informative post…

  • Tony_S

    Great writeup, look forward to the rest!

  • Frank

    Every time I here talk about trading a shortstop, I get this flashback. Lou Brock.

    • TOOT

      Castro is no Lou Brock, if that is your point.

    • TOOT

      Furthermore, I would say Castro wouldn’t make a pimple on Brock’s ass. What did Casro steal this year, 9 bases? Caught stealing 6 times? Castro is toast in my mind. I really don’t see anybody interested if the Cubs try to ditch him.

      • mjhurdle

        “I really don’t see anybody interested if the Cubs try to ditch him.”

        Well, there have been a ton of reports from the STL media that the Cardinals have been calling the Cubs to see what it would take to get Castro down here. But what do the Cardinals know about player talent…

  • jj

    Lou Brock was not HOF Lou Brock when he was Castros age. At 23, Brock had played 1 year, hit .263/.31 with 16 sb and 7cs. Brock did not steal 50+ bases until he was 26. The point is not that Castro will be a HOF player, but that plauers develop and a player witg Castro’s career performance tracks to a very good to HOF career. By one cruse measure use baseball-reference’s similiarity scores. After last season, Castros career was most similoar to playera including Doerr and Hornsby. Even after this year, Castro is still having a career like some HOF players. You don’t give up on that – especially for little return and eapecially where there is a ready reason for his poor performance.

  • YourResidentJag
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