Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and might very well end up becoming the best player who’s ever lived. Even if he retired right now, at the age of 26, there’s a (really strong) case to be made for his Hall of Fame candidacy. He’d be two seasons shy of the official requirement, but you get the point.
Indeed, every time he takes the field, we’re all privy to history in the making, as Trout will undoubtedly go down as one of baseball’s greatest of all-time.
… and he’s not even close to the most exciting player out.
Chicago Cubs infielder Javy Baez is not the best player in baseball. He’s not arguably not even the best player on his own team. He is certainly, however, very good and constantly getting better. And, more specifically, he is the most exciting player in the game.
At ESPN, Jesse Rogers has a must-read on El Mago – Javier Baez’s nickname, meaning “The Magician” – and his rock-star status in Chicago and around the game. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon has noticed the recent uptick in Javy Baez’s popularity, likening him to a Beatle and agreeing that he may have surpassed Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as the most popular Cubs on the team: “He’s the most exciting player in the game right now. And he’s only getting better. He has that rock-star feel with his teammates. For people that come to enjoy baseball, he’s the guy you come watch.”
Of course, Baez has always been an exciting player – this is hardly the first season of those crazy, El Mago Moments – but this is the first season he’s pairing that defensive and base running excellence with consistency at the plate.
So far this season, Baez is slashing .289/.323/.559 with a strikeout rate under 25%. That overall 129 wRC+ is the 36th highest mark in all of baseball, just barely behind Giancarlo Stanton (132 wRC+).
And of course, Baez has all the fun stats. His 18 home runs rank 7th in the National League, his 66 RBI rank 4th, and his 17 stolen bases are tied for 6th. When a player hitting that many balls out of the park, knocking in that many runs, and stealing that many bases is also one of the best defenders in the entire game, it’s impossible to keep your eyes off of him.
Baez has already been worth a total of 3.2 WAR this season, stolen home twice, and is participating in his first All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. He may be well behind Trout and several others in terms of overall production, but there is not a single player out there more exciting to watch than Ednel Javier Baez.