When the starting shortstop goes down, how many teams out there can slot in a guy like Javy Baez?
I’d venture a guess that Baez could be the starting shortstop on at least 50% of the teams in MLB, and on the Cubs, he rotates in and out of that position, as well as a handful of others – all a credit both to the Cubs’ depth, and Baez’s own ability to handle that role.
He handled it exceedingly well last night, making two incredible catches in the field, and contributing late in a big way at the plate and on the bases.
The first catch came on a screaming, 110 mph rocket off the bat of Bryce Harper (via @CSNCubs):
It’s just Javy doing Javy things pic.twitter.com/tCEcDcJ70M
— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) June 27, 2017
You just have no time to react on a play like that, and with the ball going to Baez’s backhand, it looked like an impossible catch. And yet here we are.
How did the man whom Baez robbed on the liner feel about the player?
“He’s a stud,” Harper told MLB.com of Baez. “One of the best in the league at what he does in his craft. One of the best gloves, quickest hands, lot of fun to watch him play and see how he’s progressed as a player. What a stud he is.”
Baez wasn’t done, though, making arguably an even more impressive catch later in the game after a mad dash (via @MLB):
An extended cut of @javy23baez‘s sick grab?
Don’t want it … NEED IT. pic.twitter.com/ReVa5SQh72
— MLB (@MLB) June 27, 2017
Baez had the presence of mind there at the end to slide just short of the wall, while also continuing to track the ball and glove it. Incredible.
Also incredible? The 132-foot distance he had to cover to make the catch at all – according to Statcast, it was the furthest a shortstop has ranged to make a catch in the two and a half years of Statcast’s existence.
Baez didn’t just do in in the field last night. Baez singled in the 8th inning, beat a force throw to second base, stole third base, and then scored on a safety squeeze bunt. He also sent one out a long way to right center the next inning – he’s been going to the opposite field with authority a lot lately – driving in what would ultimately prove to be a critical insurance run.
After the night, Baez had improved his 2017 batting line to .263/.300/.474 (91 wRC+), which is not quite where you’d hope it would be, but is perfectly acceptable given the versatility and defensive ability. It’s been a hot 10-day streak for Baez, too, who’s hit .419/.455/.581 since June 18.