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javier baez aflThe Chicago Cubs have made clear at every turn that top prospect Javier Baez will be two things when the season starts: (1) a shortstop, and (2) an Iowa Cub.

But, with each breathless Spring homer and every broken window, the question feels more pressing: what happens when Baez is ready for the big leagues? To my mind, the question remains modestly premature, given that Baez still has some things to work on at AAA, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll show he absolutely has to be in the majors any time before August.

I won’t criticize anyone who wants to ask the question, though, and it’s clear that the Cubs are doing some thinking about it. As GM Jed Hoyer indicated before Spring Training started, Baez was expected to see some time at second and/or third base this Spring, in part so that he could start getting more familiarity with the positions – just in case – and in part, I assume, so the Cubs can see how much work he would need at those positions to make a full-time move – just in case.

It sounds like that’s going to happen soon, and it sounds like second base is going to be the focus.

“We’re going to make sure when we put him there he’s really comfortable and confident he can handle that side of the diamond,” Rick Renteria said of playing Baez at second base, per ESPN. “I think he’s pretty close. It’s going to happen, sure.”

Baez, himself, confirmed to ESPN that the Cubs spoke with him yesterday about playing second or third base soon, so it could happen later this week. With Starlin Castro recovering from his hamstring issue, the Cubs could continue to give Darwin Barney playing time at shortstop (which has its own side benefits), with Baez slotting in at second. From the sound of things, that is Baez’s preference, over third base. And, long-term, the Cubs have more options at third base (Bryant, Olt, Villanueva, Candelario) than at second (Alcantara).

When he heads to Iowa, Baez will play shortstop. Getting some familiarity with second base now will have some value, but if it comes time that he’s ready to come up to the bigs and Starlin Castro is playing well at short, then Baez will have to do some learning on the fly at second base. What will happen with Darwin Barney at that point remains to be seen.

  • nate1m

    I, respectfully, disagree with the idea that Baez should be a SS and its too early to be asking the question. Unless the intent is to trade Castro or Baez he needs to moved soon. All expectation is that Baez will get a call up this year. Short may be the most difficult position but wouldn’t giving a guy every chance to succeed include getting him used to the position he will be playing rather than having him learn at the major league level. It may not be terribly important but its one more thing to be figuring out.

    • Kyle

      That’s just not how baseball teams operate. He may get a few games here and there at another position, but the best way to learn to be an MLB infielder is by fielding ground balls and making throws, and SS is where most of the ground balls and the most difficult throws are.

      • jh03

        If he moves to 3B long term, playing SS now won’t hurt him at all. That’s a smooth transition. The only problem I see (and they can work drills on this all the time, and we wouldn’t know) is turning double plays at 2B, if he were to move there. Otherwise, as you said, fielding groundballs is the same across the diamond.

        • ssckelley

          Yes, starting or turning the double play is the only main difference in playing 2nd base. Shortstops do not need 100 games at the position to learn it, practice drills are usually enough.

      • nate1m

        I’m necessarily saying move him to second and that’s that. Baez has never played another position. Its not that different but 10 or so games at second or third in the minors would make a difference.

    • Jon

      If you can play SS you can play any position.

      • mjhurdle

        If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.

        • ssckelley

          Movie quotes, movie reviews……you get a little bit of everything here at BN. :D

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Unless you drive a Dodge…then you might want to catch the wrench.

          HEEEEYYYYYYY-OOOOOHHHHHHH

        • OlderStyle

          liked.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      So is there a list of guys who played average or better defense at SS in the minors and then were switched to a different position in the bigs and played terrible defense or became failed prospects because they made the switch in the bigs?

      • nate1m

        If Baez is ‘scheduled’ to come up in July then the Iowa Cubs have about 85 games to play before then. I’m saying give him a game a week at second

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Seeing that Alcantara was moved from short stop to accomodate Baez then I see no reason that they can’t use those two at either position at Iowa. It’s not rocket science! You simply move Alcantara to SS and let Baez play second. Seeing that Alcantara may have to initially serve in a utility role it would be good for both of them.

  • ruby2626

    Even Bruce Levine on the SCORE the other day was wondering why they just don’t move Baez to 2B right now and just keep him there. Sometimes it seems they are in denial as to how good Baez is and how fast he’ll be in the majors.

    • Jon

      If Bruce Levine disagrees with your strategy, safe to say, it’s a pretty good strategy.

      Castro could be (Could be)even worse in 2014 than he was in 2013. At that point you have Baez ready to step in. Keeping him at SS in AAA still keeps plenty of options open.

    • nate1m

      Jesse Rodgers had the same thought on ESPN recently. I can’t remember if it was the blog or a chat.

      • Jon

        I’m sure a couple of beat reporters (one who should go back to hockey) know more than a group of smart guys that have been doing this for over a decade.

        It’s really this simple. SS is highest on the defensive spectrum. If you can master that position, you can master any on the field. Manny Machado learned to play 3B in 20 minutes so he could play in the bigs.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Sahadev could do a better job than Rodgers on his worst day.

          I am already peeved about the hack-job pieces that are going to come out when Baez has his first bad day at 2B.

          • Jon

            I don’t mean to sound like a dick in regards to Rodgers, but when he covered the Blackhawks(he actually knew the sport well and was good in that regard) he was so condescending to fans, especially one’s he felt were “band-wagoners”, this just feels like a bit of good ole fashion karma.

            • JB88

              I wouldn’t sell Rogers short. He actually knew dick about hockey when he started and worked really hard to learn the sport. He is doing the same thing with baseball. I don’t think he is a finished product by any stretch of the imagination.

              I haven’t noticed condescension in his posts as much as negativity (which is actually sort of curious given the Bryant piece that he wrote in November), but I also wouldn’t call him an insider (and never really thought he was with the Hawks either).

            • ChrisFChi

              That is true. Even during the 2010 cup run he seemed like a jerk

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      So what happens if someone comes along and really wants to trade for Baez?

      What happens if Castro goes down with an injury? Or if someone offers you a trade you can’t refuse?

      Virtually no organization has ever moved a guy off position a minute before they had no other choice whatsoever. Ultimately, I don’t think either of them get traded but why devalue an asset for no real good reason?

      • EQ76

        With the enormous organizational depth at 3B, and the Castro/Baez/Barney/Alacandra combo for the middle infield I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see a few trades coming and it will all work itself out. Heck, that may be what brings us the pitching prospect depth we need.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          If Baez plants himself at 2B, Alcantara will need to learn CF otherwise he is trade bait.

          If Olt can hit the ball, then Villanueva and Vitters become corner-subs and Bryant shifts to RF.

          • http://BleacherNation blewett

            That’s Almora’s future position. So he would still be trade bait!

    • ssckelley

      Darwin Barney has won a gold glove at 2nd and only had 21 games in the minors at 2nd, 3 of them were last season on a rehab assignment. Pokey Reese won 2 gold gloves at 2nd and he had only played 4 games in the minors, Ryno had 17 games at 2nd, heck Craig Biggio was a catcher in the minors! Shortstop is a tougher position to play, I say keep him there until it is absolutely necessary to move him.

  • candyland07

    Having Javier Baez be able to play multiple infield positions is a plus. I think the Cubs feel he is almost ready to taste and stay with the big league team. I do not see Castro holding back Baez ,and Castro should be further along in his development at shortstop. If Castro frustrates the fan base with his boneheaded plays Baez will do the same . Baez at 2b is good but 3b would be better only because of personal slated to take that position in the future

    . So hopefully to get Baez in the lineup sooner – he starts at 2B with the occasional start at third so when he switches 3b the transfer is less hectic. I think the Cubs would prefer to keep Castro at SS and If developmental plans go well and infield that has 3b Baez, SS Castro, 2b 2B Alcantara and 1B Rizzo .is the plan hopefully.

  • itzscott

    If Baez is a better ss than Castro, then Castro should move to 2nd

    Whoever is the better ss should play ss

    • mjhurdle

      I would say you have to factor the defense at 2B as well.

      Say Baez is a B+ defender at SS, and Castro is a B. (completely making these grades up for the sake of an example)
      But Baez is a B defender at 2B, whereas Castro would be a C.

      In that case, I would rather have a B in SS and a B in 2B than a B+ SS and a C 2B.

    • candyland07

      Either way depending on organizational needs and both players development. Castro at 2b is not a far fetch conclusion. A Castro-Baez or Baez-Castro combination in the infield can be a good thing.

    • nate1m

      He’s not. Its something that has been starting to come up recently. Defensively Castro has more range but his bone-headed plays just make everyone crazy. Baez has the athletic ability but has not been as good as Castro was in the minors

    • ssckelley

      I think I have read or heard that Castro has better range than Baez. Castro has the potential to be a really good shortstop, the word on Baez is average. But Baez’s bat is what will get him into the majors, not his glove. His bat is a huge bonus if he can play the shortstop position.

  • MightyBear

    I would still like Baez to move to third. I don’t want him getting hurt by some jackwad (Matt Holliday) sliding into second via the outfield. I think Baez has the arm to play third and the range and he could actually be a plus plus defender at third. Move Bryant to the outfield because I don’t think he’ll have the quickness to play third well and he’s athletic enough to do it. Move Olt and Villanueva for pitching. Hopefully, Alcantara can handle major league pitching because he’d be an ideal leadoff man for the Cubs. Baez, Castro, Alcantara, Rizzo third to first. Bryant, Almora, Soler left to right. Castillo catching and you have an athletic and talented 8 that has speed and power and would be solid defensively.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      Is this driven primarily by a desire to protect Baez’s health, or a preference of Alcantara over Olt/Villanueva?

    • SenorGato

      Forget where I heard it at this point but IIRC 3B get hurt more than any other infield position. They’re supposed to be more prone to hip issues.

      I’m hoping for this going into 2015:

      Rizzo/Baez/Castro/Sandoval with Bryant opening 2014 at one of the corner OF spots. Not for or against Bryant at 3B really, the key to me is he become a guy to build an offense around.

      Been a fan of Baez at 2B for a couple years now so pretty excited to see it happen. I think he can be the best 2B in the game.

  • Justin

    Why can’t Alcantara and Baez switch positions every once in awhile at AAA? Seems it would be good for both of them. And I really want Bryant to stick at 3rd. His value would be so much more there than RF (obviously he would still be very valuable in the OF as well).

  • Justin

    BTW, didn’t Profar go thru this same thing last yr as a full time Shortstop his whole minor league career and playing everywhere in the majors? I guess the assumption is that if you can play shortstop you can play 2nd base. Seems like it may be harder than that to me though..

    • DarthHater

      [img]http://mlb.mlb.com/images/4/9/6/61691496/Moneyball_0i273w63.gif[/img]

  • jammin502

    We also have to remember that Alcantara might just tear it up at AAA and move ahead of Baez on the depth chart. It would also be nice to be able to use Barney as a utility player. How great would this defense lineup be? C Castillo, 1B Rizzo, 2B Baez, SS Castro, 3B Olt, LF Lake, CF Alcantara, RF Bryant.

  • bushybrows74

    I think it would be a really average defensive lineup, maybe poor. Castro is an average shortstop. Baez is unknown at 2b, Alcantara is unknown so probably below average Cf. Bryant is a hr hitter and athletic, and great blah blah, but not a plus defender.

    Olt should play fine defensively at 3b.

    • Kyle

      I dispute your idea of “unknown”

  • NorthSideIrish

    Jim Callis and Jonathon Mayo did another one of their Prospect Perspective debates, this time on who will lead the minors in HRs this year. Mayo goes with Baez while Callis goes with Bryant. Gotta love it.

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/26271672/v31496637/mayo-callis-debate-wholl-lead-minors-in-home-runs

    • Jon

      I would not bet on it being Baez. He’ll be in Chicago by late July.

      • NorthSideIrish

        If you watch the video, Callis says that’s the only reason he didn’t pick Baez. Mayo seemed to think he might be more of a September call up.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Can tell some of you boys never played much ball. Fielding shortstop is multiple times more difficult than second. A guy learns the skill set to play a solid short, moving to second is not very difficult.

    • cubsfan08

      That’s what all you SS say…. :)

      But yes – you are correct. As long as you have the ability to field a grounder, the only other factors between SS and 2B are usually range and arm strength. Since this is MLB – typically arm strength isn’t that big of an issue. I can’t imagine any MLB SS struggling to provide solid defense when moving to 2B. Might take a while to excel (main part is figuring out ideal positioning and reading the ball off the bat) but that is just minor stuff. Many middle infielders participate in each others’ drills quite frequently anyway.

  • Bilbo161

    Baez does not need a huge volume of reps at 2nd or 3rd to make a switch. I don’t think this is anything to wear sack-cloth and ashes over. :-)

    I think there should be a pool for the call-up date for both Baez and Bryant. I suppose Baez is more likely but I wouldn’t put it past Bryant for this season either. This year is going to have plenty of its own fun to look forward to even if we don’t make a playoff run.

  • ruby2626

    2B is clearly an easier position to play than SS, you get that extra half second to not rush the play. Also the quick bobble at 2B is often not the error it is at SS. To me the biggest thing he will have to learn is turning the doubleplay, it’s obviously a little different than SS.

    Anyone see the bomb Stanton hit a day or 2 ago. I really hope Soler has a huge year, he could be a big chip in a potential trade. I’m sure Miami would love to get a potential star out of Cuba. Toss in Alcantara and Vogelbach, where do we sign?

  • dAn

    I think it makes sense to keep Baez at short in Iowa for now for a couple of reasons:

    1) Castro may not rebound; and

    2) If Castro does rebound, he might be able to bring the Cubs some of the young, front line young pitching they will need; plus,
    2b) while Castro when he’s on is a good all-around player, he’s not a true table setter or a true RBI guy–and Baez likely would be a legit RBI guy; and
    2c) the Cubs have a lot of other good young infielders coming up (Alcantara, Bryant, Olt, Villanueva, etc.). Why not take the one guy with the most established MLB value (Castro), and deal him for pitching?

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  • Diehardthefirst

    An infield without Barney up the middle will be like a rudderless boat up the river- think Cape Fear redux with DeNiro … Speaking in tongues and all

    • DocPeterWimsey

      I’m confused: how are rudderless boats a metaphor infielders that generate runs when they bat?

      • DocPeterWimsey

        edit: … metaphor for…

        It turns out that is as tough to type as it is to say!

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