Javier Baez is about to make his major league debut. While the rest of Cubs fandom dances in jubilation, I cower nervously (with maybe a few small capers of rational optimism). Baez is a boom or bust player thanks to his awesome power and his proclivity to strike out. Over the past two months he has made significant (if individually small) improvements to his stance, his swing, his plate approach, and his plate discipline that have helped transform his disastrous April into an excellent July. Unfortunately, the total package of those changes are still going to be somewhat new to Baez. I think it is fair to ask just how comfortable he is with them.
Sometimes, perhaps not in this case, when young players struggle they tend to revert away from their more recent coaching and back to their most comfortable form. We saw this to some extent with Castro last season. Should that happen, and if Baez’s most comfortable form is closer to the April version, then we will get to sit back for the first half of next season while those same improvements are reconstructed. That’s a risk the front office is evidently willing to take, but it is one that makes me very nervous. Since Baez is a high risk player anyway, anything that compounds that risk strikes with me chords of unease.
Because he will struggle. That is just a given. Young hitters are prone to struggle, and high strikeout hitters are prone to struggle, and Baez has a history of struggling upon promotion to a new level. He will struggle. The question is whether or not he will stick to his Iowa transformation when that struggle hits, or revert back a previous form.
Regardless of how many homers or strikeouts he piles up, I will be most interested in how his Chicago form over the rest of the season compares to his July form in Iowa. What I am hoping to see is a quieter stance with some bat movement, but nothing excessive. I’m hoping for a swing that remains balanced and doesn’t get so wild that he can’t adjust to the pitch. While the bulk of Baez’s production will be to left and left center, I hope to see him continue to shoot the ball into right on a somewhat regular basis. I hope to see a continued willingness to make contact and let his natural power do it’s thing, and not so much of a tendency to try to pulverize the ball into tiny little bits with each swing of the bat.
If, instead, over the next few weeks I see excessive bat movement, wild swings, lots of 0-2 counts, and a very high ratio of fly balls to left, then I hope to see the Cubs slip Baez back down to Iowa and to the coaches who helped with his July resurgence before any of those recent lessons are entirely unlearned.
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa – Who needs Baez? Iowa reclaimed first place with this 6-0 win.
Tennessee – The Smokies also reclaimed first place with this 3-2 win.
Daytona – Daytona was rained out.
Kane County – The Kane County game was suspended. It will be completed today.
Boise Hawks – Boise had the day off.
Arizona – This game got away from the Cubs late, and they lost 10-5.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Eric Jokisch was the star of this one. He struck out 7 over 8 shutout innings while allowing just 5 hits.
- [Iowa] Kris Bryant doubled, walked twice, and finished 2 for 3. Jorge Soler also walked twice, but finished hitless.
- [Iowa] Mike Olt doubled and finished 2 for 5 with 2 strikeouts.
- [Tennessee] Taylor Davis doubled, homered (his 3rd) and finished 3 for 3 with a walk.
- [Tennessee] Albert Almora and Addison Russell were both hitless off the bench.
- [Tennessee]Lendy Castillo and Hunter Cervenka combined for 2.2 innings of hitless, 4 strikeout relief.
- [Arizona] Ivan Pineyro made another rehab start in the desert last night, lasting 4.1 innings and allowing 2 runs on 5 hits.
- [Arizona] Jake Stinnett, the Cubs 2014 second round pick, made his professional debut. Coming on in relief, he got both hitters he faced to ground out.
- [Arizona] Andrew Ely homered for the 4th time and finished 3 for 5. Roney Alcala and Ricardo Marcano also had 3 hits.
- So, what about the time table for the other Iowa slugging prospects? Jorge Soler should be in the majors this year to continue getting at bats. I think a few more weeks in Iowa would be good for him, but if the Cubs moved him up tomorrow I wouldn’t argue. Kris Bryant is a tougher call. He has the least professional experience of any of these prospects, and that suggests he could use additional seasoning. On the other hand, he has made adjustments lately and appears to be in the middle of another of his prolific hot streaks. By September he will have had another few weeks to lock in those adjustments and could be ready. I would lean towards letting him rest in September since he is coming off his first full season, but giving him a chance to claim a job in spring training.
- Addison Russell is a very long shot to make the majors this year. Should Tennessee fall out of contention and Iowa stay in it, I could see Russell going to Iowa for the additional at bats, but more likely he takes off for a winter league. Next year he could start in either Iowa or Tennessee and should reach Chicago by year’s end. The timeline for Albert Almora is similar. The young outfielder likely will not advance past Double A this year, but with a successful 2015 he could still reach Chicago by the end of it.