In a system like the Cubs’, at any given time, somebody’s bound to be on a hot streak that includes a bunch of homers. It is fun.
Right now, that somebody is two somebodies: Addison Russell and Javier Baez.
In his last nine games, Russell has homered six times, including three in his last two games. Here was his dinger from yesterday:
Russell gets around on those inning pitches quickly. So far, from the homers we’ve seen, they’ve all been of the pull variety (which, for most guys who aren’t freaks like Baez/Bryant/Soler/Schwarber, that’s where the majority of your power is going to be).
Let me say this: Russell has power. Don’t let anyone misconstrue silly, poorly-worded blogger comments from yesterday to tell you anything else. No one anywhere was saying he doesn’t have power.
On the year, spent mostly at AA between the A’s and Cubs, Russell is hitting .287/.361/.504 through 144 plate appearances. He’s 20, and plays shortstop. Don’t forget those parts. If Russell does this kind of thing the rest of the way, there’s no doubt he’ll start 2015 at AAA.
Speaking of shortstops who killed it at AA as a 20-year-old, Javier Baez homered again yesterday. Twice.
The homers came in two separate legs of a doubleheader, but it’s impressive just the same. Each was a three-run shot in his first plate appearance of the game. Here’s the first:
And here’s the second, which several folks in attendance say was the longest homer they’ve ever seen:
The two reactions to watch on that one are the pitcher (head down in shame immediately), and the runner at second base. That’s Ryan Kalish, and if you watch, not only does he not even look at the ball, but he does the same thing as the pitcher: head down immediately. Not in shame, but in the knowledge that the ball is way, way gone, and so he starts his jog to home – not run, just a jog – even though there are no outs. That’s how much he doesn’t even have to look.
For Baez, that was his fifth homer in his last eleven games, and his third in his last four games.
And, with the games yesterday, Baez did something he hasn’t done all year: he got his OPS over .800. He’s now slashing .259/.320/.499, which, as a 21-year-old shortstop (playing some second base) at AAA, is sufficiently high that we no longer have to do the “and that’s despite his really horrible first month.” We can just say: that’s a really good line for a 21-year-old shortstop at AAA.
The K rate still concerns you, but it’s come markedly down over the last couple months (26.1% since the start of June coming into yesterday, with an 8.7% BB rate). The chances we see Baez in the big leagues at some point before the end of the year seem to be growing by the day. When that happens, you can and should expect some adjustment issues. But that will be the entire point: introduce Baez to some of the things that will give him troubles in the bigs, and then give him an entire offseason – and maybe a month at AAA next year – to work on them so he can be more ready to roll when the Cubs need him in 2015.