Javy Baez Day, Part Two is coming soon.
It will have a dramatically different feel than in 2014, though, given that Baez’s return to the big league team likely won’t be the primary focus of whatever day that is (winning and the playoffs will), and given that he probably won’t be an everyday starter. Instead, Baez will come back as a versatile guy who can help the Cubs by periodically starting or subbing in a variety of positions, can offer big-time righty thump off the bench, and can run the bases well.
Joe Maddon says that Baez will probably be a “first wave” guy when call-ups come this week as rosters expand to the full 40-man in September (Cubs.com, ESPN). That could come as soon as Tuesday, September 1, along with an additional bullpen arm or two (Zac Rosscup? Yoervis Medina? Rafael Soriano?), and a speed guy off the bench (Emilio Bonifacio? Quintin Berry? Neither of those two is yet on the 40-man, so they’d need a spot there, too).
Baez, 22, has played in only 69 games at Iowa this year after missing time at the start of the season following the death of his sister, and then after breaking a finger mid-season. When on the field, he’s been highly productive, hitting .315/.378/.522 for Iowa, with a strikeout rate now solidly below 25%.
I can’t wait to see how Baez is used. The injury to Jorge Soler will, via shuffling, probably open up more starts for Baez than otherwise might have been available. Against lefties, I wonder if we’ll see him starting at third base, with Kris Bryant heading out to right field. Otherwise, he might get an occasional start at shortstop and second base, though, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure that the total value he would provide as the everyday starter at second wouldn’t already be greater than what the La Stella/Castro combo could provide (and, don’t get me wrong: I like that combo at second right now). Maybe, then, we’ll see Baez get a chance to win that job outright down the stretch.
I wouldn’t expect it just yet, but it’s possible. You’ve got to remember that Baez is going to, once again, have any minuscule hole in his swing exploited immediately by big league pitching and advance scouting in ways he hasn’t been facing at AAA. The strikeout rate is down and the production is up for him overall, which is definitely good. But the big leagues, as he saw last year, are an entirely different animal.
So, then, I fall back on believing, for the rest of this year, Baez will simply be a really nice piece to be occasionally starting and coming off the bench in a variety of roles. And that’s a great thing to be adding to the team.