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Javy Baez’s Formative (Hopefully) 2015 Year and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

javier baez cubs gloveI had my first ever green tea today. It tasted like tea. I’ll probably try to spice it up a little bit for future drinkings, if I can do so without undercutting the benefits I’m supposed to be getting by drinking the tea in the first place.

  • Overall, Javy Baez’s numbers so far in the Puerto Rican Winter League are not overwhelming: through 48 plate appearances, Baez is hitting .225/.340/.350 with one homer and two doubles. Something you like to see, though, is that he’s struck out just eight times (that’s a K rate well under 20%), and he’s walked seven times. In a small sample, it looks like Baez is sacrificing power for contact and discipline, which is something we saw from him in his abbreviated big league stint in 2015, too. Even at AAA in 2015, Baez’s strikeout rate fell dramatically to 24.3% from 30.0% in 2014. His ISO, too, was down from .250 to .203.
  • Obviously Baez has always drawn a great deal of his value from the absurd power he could provide at a middle infield position, so you hate to see that waning, but here’s the thing: (1) if he was producing the power (in the minors) with habits that were going to make him repeatedly exploitable in the big leagues, then a sacrifice is necessary if he’s to have a successful big league career, and (2) it’s not at all uncommon in these situations to see a player adjust to improve contact at a young age, and then re-develop the power next. No, we might never see a Baez that has a decent contact rate, improved discipline, AND hits 30 homers in the big leagues, but I also don’t think that it will always be a choice between improved contact and zero power, or tons of power and zero contact.

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  • In sum: I really like what we’ve seen from Baez in 2015, between AAA, the big leagues, and now winter ball. Improving discipline, contact, and pitch recognition is a huge step one for him to transition into being an incredibly valuable big league player (especially if his positional versatility continues). Worry about adding back the power later.
  • On that positional thing: Baez debuted at center field a little over a week ago, and he has since seen time at all of center field, shortstop, and second base. Also one more on Baez: think about how much adversity he went through in 2015, from losing his sister, to not making the big league club, to breaking his finger midseason. It was an impressive year for the young man when you put it all together.
  • A great read from Dan Szymborski on how Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame case underscores the problems facing voters and the Hall – Mussina should easily be in, according to Szymborski, but he’s not, thanks to a ballot bloated by PED-tinged candidates on whom there has been no guidance about how to vote, and a ballot artificially limited to 10 names. As for the specific player: I’d forgotten just how consistently very good – maybe not quite super-duper-elite-great, but very good – Mussina was for a very long time. From his first full season in 1992, until his final season in 2008, Mussina posted a WAR under 3.0 just four times: one (2.8) when was 24 and in his second full season, and then three other times when he was 35, 36, and 38. And none of those four times was his WAR below 2.6. That’s pretty incredible. He also had 10 seasons with a WAR over 5.0.
  • The starting lineup for the next half decade in all of baseball, from Sports on Earth, has a fair number of Cubs mentions – Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Kris Bryant – but only Bryant makes the cut at designated hitter. It’s fun to think that the Cubs could, within a year, have no fewer than five or six players for whom you could make a credible argument that they could have been the guy at their position.

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  • A random thing that the article triggered for me – for some reason I thought Jose Altuve was older than 25. Not much, but a little. And I also didn’t realize just how crazy good he was in 2014 and 2015. You think “Jose Altuve, decent hitter, not tall.” But, yeah, he’s a hell of a lot better than that. And that’s when I point you to the article where a then 24-year-old Altuve credits his breakout 2014 season to his hitting coach at the time … none other than Cubs hitting coach John Mallee.
  • Get a hoverboard for Christmas? Did you stay on it without tumbling wildly end over end on your back? Well, then you’ve got one up on Dan Uggla, whose wife shared an hilarious video of Uggla’s wipeout.
  • If you missed it this morning, there is a new report of PED usage involve current MLB’ers, as well as Peyton Manning.

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  • St. Louis columnist, and former beat writer, Joe Strauss died this morning after a battle with leukemia. He was 54. Whenever someone in your field dies, it’s an illuminating thing – sad, perhaps, because of whatever connection you might have to the specific person; but also a reminder of our mortality. We’re surrounded by news of death – and it’s not like I don’t know I’m going to die at some point – but it always hits me in a much more real way when the person passing, for one example, dedicated his or her professional life to covering baseball. Maybe it’s vain and self-involved, but you want to believe that the person’s life meant something, if only so you can feel more connected to your own. Derrick Goold wrote a touching obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, and Ken Rosenthal similarly wrote a meaningful tribute. There are and will be others. These eulogies also always remind me that we have to make sure to tell the folks around us how much they mean to us while they’re still here.

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.