The biggest story for the Chicago Cubs last night took place far away from Clark and Addison, as Javier Baez, one of the organization’s top shortstop prospects (still crazy to have to phrase it that way), made his first career pro start at second base. Whether the game was a “move” or a toe dipped in the water, the Cubs have always indicated that positional versatility is important for their top bats like Baez, and have further indicated that moving guys like Baez to places like second base was always a possibility, long-term, to accommodate everyone.
So, the questions from last night: how did Baez play, and what’s the plan going forward?
It was just one game, but from what I could see, Baez looked fairly natural at second (he has taken grounders there for a while now). Most tellingly, he looked fine as part of three double-plays, which can be one of the trickier adjustments coming over from shortstop.
Baez’s manager Marty Pevey was even more effusive.
“He looked like an All-Star shortstop playing second base,” Pevey told MiLB.com after the game. “You can put an All-Star shortstop anywhere in the infield. He had the most range of anybody I’ve seen at second base in a long time.”
Resisting urge to dream on Baez as a Gold Glovin’, 40-homer-hittin’ second baseman down the road.
Importantly, Pevey added that this wasn’t just a one-game look-see. And it doesn’t even sound like it’s a once-or-twice-a-week thing, like the Cubs had been doing with Arismendy Alcantara in center field.
“I’m working with [Baez] there over the next several days,” Pevey explained to MiLB.com. “We’ll see him mainly at second base at least over the next several days.”
So, there you go. Does this mean Baez is “moving” to second base? Not necessarily. But clearly the Cubs want to get a really good grasp on how he’d perform over there regularly. As Luke has said, this is earlier than I would have expected this kind of shuffling to take place, because (1) you would think a serious look at second wouldn’t come until Baez was very close to a promotion, and (2) you would think that, given his early struggles and service time considerations, Baez wouldn’t be all that close to a promotion.
However, Baez’s approach at the plate has improved dramatically over the last couple months, and it’s not like we didn’t think he’d be in a position to be in the bigs in the second half back in March. I’m not saying this second base business means Baez is definitely coming up in August and/or September, but it does make it much more plausible. And, as I always say: player development trumps service time considerations every time. Perhaps the Cubs believe Baez is a guy who will benefit from seeing some big league action this year, getting a sense of the things he’ll have to work on in the offseason, and then come ready to roll in 2015.
Obviously I’m doing a whole lot of extrapolating here, but there are suddenly a lot of possibilities on the table.