It’s never been difficult to see the athlete in Javier Baez. You don’t generate that kind of bat speed in that frame without a whole lot of preternatural physical ability. But the bat speed tells only a very small slice of the story.
Because of his offensive struggles last year, and the attendant weight placed on his offensive upside (which is considerable), I think some started to sleep on that athleticism. The 22-year-old infielder is quick, covers a lot of ground, has a strong arm, and has good instincts.
Baez showed it all off last night while playing third base – a position he’s learning on the fly with almost no professional experience there – making a fantastic charging, barehanded play on a bunt in the fifth, and then following it up with a diving stop, and throw from his knee. The latter looks exceptionally nice in GIF form:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 9, 2015
Thereafter, Baez made a sparkling catch on a liner with the bases loaded in the 7th. No video for you on that one, but it looked pretty sweet, if you didn’t see it. Saved a couple runs, and potentially prevent that otherwise scary 5th inning from becoming seriously game-threatening.
Baez will continue to be an important piece for the Cubs down the stretch, flashing that leather at third, at second, and at shortstop. Athleticism always plays. We’ll get there when we get there, but the positional discussions abounding this offseason sure are going to be interesting.
Through 23 plate appearances this year in the bigs, he’s hitting .286/.348/.524 by the way, with a 17.4% strikeout rate.