Getting back into the rhythm, and it’s shaping up to be a very busy day already …
- Sahadev Sharma wrote a great piece at BP on Javier Baez, and, specifically, the many adjustments he may or may not be making at the plate with respect to both approach and swing. Just consider all of the things Baez, 22, is potentially being asked to alter/consider when he’s at the plate in games: reduce his natural leg kick, lower his hands and move them slightly forward pre-load, better sync the timing of his upper and lower body during swing, reduce the length of his swing overall, reduce the swing even more in certain situations and counts, and better identify pitch spin and location. It’s easy for us to talk about these things casually, and it’s also relatively easy for pros to isolate and instruct on these issues. But it’s another thing entirely to actually incorporate them all – simultaneously – into your game. If teams could magically make young human beings absorb, adopt, and implement these kinds of changes instantly, they’d be running out a bunch of All-Stars at every position. The reality is that it’s much easier said than done, and, as we’ve discussed many times already this offseason, effectively communicating these things is going to be critical for the Cubs with respect to Baez, as well as other players.
- In any case, it’s just a fantastic read from Sharma on the many things Baez is dealing with right now. His natural talent is off the charts, and we wouldn’t be nearly this concerned with his adjustments if we all didn’t recognize the potential. Dealing with both mechanical and approach issues at the same time is just really tough, and could take some time to sort out, if it’s going to sort out. I still suspect it’s better than 50/50 that Baez is the Cubs’ second baseman on Opening Day, but a stint at AAA Iowa remains possible, in part because of these issues, and in part because the Cubs can afford to make that move with their roster depth. That said, Baez may be best served working with the big league staff and adjusting against big league pitching at this point. He also brings an above-average glove at second, good speed, great effort on the bases, and a high baseball IQ. Even if the bat lags a bit – crazy to think that it’s the bat lagging for a guy like Baez – I don’t think he would kill the Cubs at second right now.
- (Michael wrote about Baez’s swing, together with Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, yesterday, in case you missed it.)
- Matt Szczur is day-to-day after his wall collision on Tuesday (ESPN), and was a late scratch yesterday. I saw the play, and, although it wasn’t brutal or anything, he did hit the wall – on his side – while running at a pretty good clip. Although Szczur stayed in the game, I’m not surprised he’s going to miss a little time. He’s putting together a great Spring, and I really look forward to seeing what his own swing changes will mean for him in 2015.
- Also in the not-quite-injured-but-kind-of-injured front, Kris Bryant will not play at third base tonight, as previously hoped (ESPN). Joe Maddon wants to give him one more day to ensure that the shoulder trouble has subsided. Instead, Bryant will DH in the (non-televised) “B” game at Sloan Park this afternoon.
- Albert Almora is hitting .353/.389/.529 on the Spring, which may be the extreme version of what we could most realistically hope for him to become: high average thanks to a good line-drive stroke and huge contact rate (he’s only struck out twice), OBP barely higher than average thanks to low walk rate (he’s walked once), and decent power. Can Almora be a .300/.330/.430 hitter in the big leagues? I absolutely think he can. And that guy, paired with excellent center field defense and the intangibles? That’s a stud. This will be a big year for Almora, and I really look forward to seeing how he fares in his second go-around at AA to start the season.
- In case you missed it last night, Michael wrote about three recent Cubs minor league signings.
- Joe Maddon was impressed with the Cubs’ “zero defects” win yesterday:
Really pleased with ZD game..strong situational hitting early..Addison and Albert using oppo gap…Pitchers great job maintaining the lead
— Joe Maddon (@CubsJoeMadd) March 18, 2015
- And some beautiful new duds:
— Battleaxe (@shawnohare1) March 19, 2015