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javier baez aflOn the day that we swooned over Kris Bryant’s dominance at AA, it’s worth pointing that Javier Baez – roundly considered the better prospect among pundits – is struggling as much at AAA as Bryant is succeeding at AA. It’s understandable that it’s come up a bit today.

To date, Baez is hitting just .151/.248/.280 at Iowa, and is sporting an unnervingly high 36.2% strikeout rate. Let me offer a few statistical salves, if you’re desperate for them: Baez’s .212 BABIP is way too low for the way he hits the ball, and is absolutely going to positively regress; Baez’s .129 ISO is way too low for how much natural power he has when he does hit the ball, so that’ll probably increase substantially, too; and Baez’s 9.5% walk rate is a career best.

Here are some other things to calm your nerves a bit in this second week of May:

(Ok, so that last one isn’t so much a nerve-calmer, but it was required for context.)

And then there’s this:

I checked John’s work on that one, and he’s right. Baez turned 21 in December, which, for context, means that he wouldn’t be age inappropriate even if he were as low as High-A. Hell – Baez is a full year younger than Bryant. Double hell – Baez would be one of the youngest players at AA.

Some adjustments for Baez were always going to be required, and he’s had only 25 games so far in which to make them, playing at a level in which he’s the youngest player in either AAA league. Just 25 games.

No one is happy about Baez’s start to the year, and I’m sure that list includes Baez. But, given his style, these kinds of struggles were almost certain to happen at some point against more mature pitching. In the long run, it might be a good thing that he’s going through this at AAA (especially at AAA, and not in the majors). If guys like Callis and Parks aren’t worried at this point, it’s probably fair to say that neither should we be.

An absurd hot streak would not be surprising, and could start at any moment.

  • Travis

    I did not realize he was THAT young compared to AAA competition. I can breathe easier now. Thank you

  • TommyK

    I’m not buying the statistical “bad luck” argument base on BABIP and the like. Striking out 37% of the time is only bad luck in the sense that the ball doesn’t happen to be where he’s swinging the bat. I’m not giving up on him, but I think they need to send him back down to AA for awhile.

    • JB88

      *Head scratcher*

    • renegade4196

      Sending him down to AA would hurt him more than promoting him to the MLB.

      He’s got nothing left to prove there; sending him back would set up this same process.

      • TommyK

        He could prove he can keep his strikeout percentage below 25% at AA. That would be nice to see. I’ve been a Cubs fan for over 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of highly regarded prospects in the organization. Almost all of them have failed. So it’s a little tough to just trust that Baez is going to be different. Scouts told me Ty Griffin was going to be great.

        • renegade4196

          I understand that virtually every Cubs prospect has failed (I’m 18 years old, so the failures I’m familiar with are Corey Patterson, Felix Pie etc.), but I really don’t think AA is the answer. He’s proven everything he can there, and if he’s going to be successful in the MLB, he’s going to have to adjust to harder pitching at AAA. If his K rate can go down to around 25% in Iowa, and then for him to hit more for contact, Baez will be extremely useful. I still believe Bryant is the better of the two, but Baez can definitely be successful, and I think that starts with him adjusting to AAA.

        • Brocktoon

          Ty Griffin has nothing to do with Javier Baez. There is not a single employee of importance still employed with the organization who was here when Griffin was drafted and not developed. The only thing that is the same is the name on the jersey, and unless you believe in voodoo gypsy curses that doesn’t matter.

          • Ivy Walls

            First person observation and comments from a MLB scout who works MiLB; Baez is being challenged, (my interpretation) he is not being hand holded, he needs to be humbled at this level and not the MLB level, not sent back but humbled at the AAA level, where he finally succumbs to some coaching.

            The difference and Baez will tell us is whether the Cubs system has the ability to actually coach a top prospect and not waste them. Baez has to change some of his plate approaches, (K rate) and also start forcing the pitcher to come to him (BB rate) where when he has lost the tactical battle and has 2 strikes hit it where they an’t .

            You will see it when it comes. And by the way, when Bryant and Alcantara does make it to the Show before Baez that might be a good thing for Baez.

    • BenRoethig

      He’s not going to learn what he needs to learn at AA. He needs to be subjected to major league style pitch selection and he needs to learn how to change his approach and work his way out of a slump. His maturity just needs to catch up to his talent.

    • Danny Ballgame

      Anyone who hits the ball as hard as Baez does is going to have a higher BABIP than most players at any level, including MLB. He has also struggled at the beginning of every level that he has played and then turned it on and became one of the best in that level of MILB. I am not the least bit worried and would not be distraught if he has a bad half of a season before he figures something out and starts hitting again.

      • MightyBear

        Totally agree Big Ben.

      • CubsFaninMS

        I’m cautiously, nervously excited about Baez’s slump. From a distance (none of us our scouts), Baez appears to have the makeup of a strong-headed, confident kid who can make the necessary adjustments to be successful. He’s experiencing a long hardship. The act of making adjustments should in and of itself be a tool. Baez would be at least a 70 from what we can tell in terms of making adjustments. He may bust.. there has always been that possibility… but this is the perfect time for him to stumble and show how well his “making adjustments” tool is.

        • Edwin

          If he could wait until after hitting 600 HR at the MLB level to start stumbling, I’d be happier.

  • Baron A. Redsie

    Brett,

    Thanks for the salve… I was in definite need of that!

    How does the way Bryant is killing in AA compare to the way Baez killed in AA last year, after the same amount of plate appearances? Maybe it’s a false perception / memory, but it SEEMS like Bryant is aheard of what Baez was doing. I hope that means Bryant might require a little less adjustment period, if when he makes that much anticipated jump to AAA, HOPEFULLY this summer.

    Hopefully things look up for Baez soon, for his sake and the sake of us manic fans out here! Ya gotta feel for these guys and the immense pressure they have got to be feeling.

    • Danny Ballgame

      He is ahead of Baez as far as the fact that he started in AA and has killed it from early on. Baez is younger tho, and also crushed AA to the like of a .294/.346/.638/.983 line with 15 doubles and 20 homers in 54 games.

    • BenRoethig

      Bryant has had a much easier time overall, but he also has an approach well beyond his years. He also had 3 years of college ball. Still, like Baez I’d want him to face AAA pitching before I’d call him ready.

      Beaz took advantage of pitchers who were too young to work a count and locate effectively. He can get a 100mph fastball, he just can’t lay off the curve or the offspeed stuff. Also, failure can be a good thing. it makes one determined. Look at the seasons Castro and Rizzo had last year. Anthony in particular worked really hard on his approach against lefties and its made him a better overall hitter. Even among potential superstars, the Albert Pujols and Mike Trout types who bust into the majors are the one or twice in a generation exceptions. Most players need to learn how not to struggle.

      • renegade4196

        Thank you^. That’s the approach that they need to take. Castro and Rizzo took out a lot of the kinks and they look tons better this year. Demoting them doesn’t help.

  • Jon

    I shook my head at the idiots in Iowa that were booing him the other night. If you boo a minor league player you should be taken out back and shot.

    • DarthHater

      I think tar-and-feathering them would be sufficient.

    • Hebner The Gravedigger

      I agree, except when it is Todd Hundley in Des Moines. That is the only time I have ever found it necessary to boo a player.

    • Karl Groucho

      I demand professional-caliber baseball with my $5 hot dog deal!

      • DarthHater

        New promotion: Fans who boo get dropped out of a helicopter into a pen full of carnivorous Iowa hogs.
        —–Hannibal Lecter, New Promotional Director, Iowa Cubs

        • Karl Groucho

          Fans who boo are treated to a personal, hour-long performance of take me out to the ballgame. By Ozzy Osborne.

        • Edwin

          Wouldn’t that be Mason Verger?

          • DarthHater

            I wondered who would be the first to catch that. You win today’s “Darth’s Lazy Award.” Congratulations.

            • Edwin

              Best show on TV right now.

              • DarthHater

                It’s pretty good, but I think I might like it more if I could understand more than half the words spoken by Mush Mouth Mads Mikkelsen.

    • Diego Javier

      Wait a minute now.

      I was one of the idiots in Iowa booing the shit out of Ian Stewart last year. Screw that guy.

      • DarthHater

        Yea, I think the no-booing rule only applies to actual minor leaguers. Not to major-league malingerers like Stewart.

        • mudge

          I thought the rule was against hitting them over the head. The no-boing rule. Not to be confused with the no-bong rule.

          • DarthHater

            Now I’m confused. Pass the boing … err … bong.

        • renegade4196

          Hard to be a bigger douche than Ian Stewart.

      • Brocktoon

        I think booing your own players is pretty silly in general.

  • JB88

    That 9.5% walk rate is encouraging. The K rate is disconcerting though.

    If my memory serves, this was about the time last year that fans of this blog were calling for Baez’s head. He’s earned at least another month of patience before we feed him to the wolves.

    • Danny Ballgame

      He has earned more than another month from what I have seen. Even if he has a bad season, I will not count him out.

      • JB88

        I was saying that last part tongue in cheek. I don’t think you’d count him out, per se, if he had a bad season, but the sheen would certainly start to rub off his glorified prospect status if this is a season long funk.

        • Danny Ballgame

          Totally agree with you JB. He has just made us expect constant dingers and huge games five times a week. I still think that he turns it around and gets back to destroying the baseball.

  • Los-Cachorros

    Can someone tell me where I can find a Baez Smokies jersey?
    I have checked MILB and Amazon.

  • Diego Javier

    This is my two cents on factors contributing to the slow start: He’s seeing better (smarter) pitching than he has before. He’s 21 friggin years old and is viewed as the savior of the cubs already. April was pretty chilly in Des Moines. He had an injury. He has a history of slow starts. I’m not too worried about his future.

    In other prospect news, Kris Bryant is amazing but am I crazy to think the Soler will be the first of the “core 4″ to be in CHI long term?

    • Noah_I

      That’s getting a little too excited about 25 excellent plate appearances. With that said, Soler was beating up High A pretty well last year before the injuries caught up to him. However, he’s going to probably have to put at least 200 really good PAs in Double A to move up, which would make it very aggressive to get him to the Majors this year. Bryant would be a less aggressive move. I’m not sure how Soler’s deal, though, would affect the Cubs’ incentives with him in terms of service time issues.

    • JB88

      If Soler had stayed healthy the last two years, I don’t think you are crazy. As much as Soler is dinged by people at Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America for his approach, of the Big/Core 4, Soler’s approach is easily the best in terms of eye and K rate.

      Now, all that said, I think he needs ABs and lots of them this year. And he needs to stay healthy. If he can do that through September, maybe, just maybe he could be a September call up. But the only real thing that Soler in the MiLB implicates is the number of times he could be optioned to the minor leagues. Having now played in two seasons in the minors, that number is dwindling, but shouldn’t really matter if he starts next year in AAA or the MLs (what I mean by that is once the Cubs bring Soler up to the majors, he is likely here to stay, so bringing him up in September or next April shouldn’t have a huge impact).

  • Addison Clark

    Javier Baez needs to learn that as he moves up the ladder, he can not longer swing as if every pitch needs to be hit to the moon. In certain situations, counts and pitchers he can do that. He got away with it at lower levels of the minors, but that is not going to work in AAA or the majors.

    • JB88

      The 9.5% walk rate would suggest he isn’t swinging at every pitch …

  • Kyle

    [img]http://confoundedinterest.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/kevin-bacon-all-is-well-remain-calm-300×273.jpg[/img]

    • Kyle

      [img]http://confoundedinterest.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/kevin-bacon-all-is-well-remain-calm-300×273.jpg[/img]

      • Kyle

        Hmm, 0-for-2.

        I won’t be like Baez and take the third swing and a miss.

        • Edwin

          I think you should go for it. You just need to learn to make adjustments. Better you struggle at this type of thing now than later on.

          • DarthHater

            I think we’ve seen enough to conclude that Kyle sucks at memes.

            • MightyBear

              Leave the memes to the professionals like DH.

              • DarthHater

                I have no natural aptitude for it. It’s all belly fire and The Will To Annoy.

          • MoneyBoy

            Edwin… quite well played, sir!!

        • DarthHater

          [img]https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2919/14192436233_4e73c2422d_o.jpg[/img]

  • Letsplay2

    Headed over to Pringles Park to watch Soler, Bryant, Villanueva Etc. BOOYAA!!!

    • willis

      Where do you live? I’m in Memphis and thinking about heading down I-40 tomorrow to take in the game.

  • Letsplay2

    No *Villanueva* Long day at work…

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I remember over the winter reading a quote from Baez to the effect that he only knew one way to swing. I’ve got a news flash for him. He had better find a stroke where he chokes up on the bat and and makes moderate contact to areas of the field without defenders or else he may be a career minor leaguer. Soler has been a doubles machine in the short time he has been back. Personally I’m tired of guys swinging for the fences and would like to see guys driving the ball on a line. That is why Olt has looked pretty bad in the majority of his plate appearances. With men on second and third you don’t need a home run.

    • Spriggs

      One area of the field where there are never any defenders – is on the other side of the outfield wall! When Baez starts choking up, that’s when I will get concerned. Keep ripping Javier.

    • Brocktoon

      MLB as little league fail.

  • Napercal

    In order to be a better hitter, Baez needs to complete his Jedi training. H needs to learn the ways of the Force. It is strong with him, but he is not a Jedi yet. He must face down and defeat his inner Vader and let the Force flow through him.

    • DarthHater

      Your powers are weak, old man.

    • Edwin

      and get his hand chopped off?

  • 5412

    Hi,

    Baez has 93 at bats according to the Iowa website. Somewhere in the middle of that he spent some time on the DL as I recall.

    While we all will feel better if his average jumps up, a hot week would make a world of difference. The more he continues to strike out, the more the pitchers will get a book on him. That is a good thing because he will see more of those pitches and can work on what he needs to learn.

    This kid is a natural athlete if there ever was one, and a young one to boot. I have a hard time believing he will be a Corey Patterson or Felix Pie.

    I would not hurt him to stay in Iowa for several hundred at bats if that is what it takes. We should remember they do not want to have happen to him what happened to Rizzo where they felt he came up to early (In SD).

    regards,
    5412

  • Blackhawks1963

    A strikeout rate of 36% is highly alarming to me. He’s always been a player who could overwhelm lesser pitchers and who is the absolute definition of a feast or famine type. He’s got to learn how to become a professional hitter. Just letting God given athletism and lightning quick wrists get you by won’t work over the long haul. Seems to me he is at least a year away and that it will be monstrous mistake to ever try to rush him to the bigs.

  • NorthSideIrish

    Tommy Birch ‏@TommyBirch 1m
    Baez with the walk off single and the I-#Cubs win 2-1 in 10 innings. #PCL #MiLB

    Baby steps…

  • BlameHendry

    I just want to say this about Baez:

    I know near the beginning of the season, Baez himself said that they were trying to shorten up his swing. That was the first red flag to me, and all I could think about was Starlin Castro last season when they tried to “fix” him. I haven’t actually seen any footage of Baez swing at AAA so far this year, so I can’t say for sure if he’s trying out a shorter swing, but I still think these struggles are due to coaches meddling with his swing too much. At least he had the walk-off single tonight after starting off 0-4 with 2K’s, but knowing that they have tried to alter his swing instead of just working on his approach and plate discipline (what to swing at and what to lay off of) is what’s got me worried.

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