Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month: Jeffrey Baez and Matt Swarmer

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Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month: Jeffrey Baez and Matt Swarmer

Chicago Cubs

A Cubs player of the month, and it’s J. Baez! No, not that J. Baez, the minor league J. Baez!

Also, a pitcher of the month:

Baez, 24, has long been an enigmatic prospect, intermittently flashing ridiculous tools together with serious deficiencies. His is a name you’ve heard a lot in the last five years if you’ve been a prospecting nerd (even this morning he came in for mention by Luke). And yet it’s been a very slow climb for the outfielder, who only just reached AA for the first time last year, his seventh in the system.

Repeating the level this year, he’s gotten out to an absurd start, as the Cubs’ release notes (his 212 wRC+ means he’s been 112% better than league average … that’s nuts). That comes with a .500 BABIP, a 27.8% strikeout rate, and a .323 ISO, which tells me he’s absolutely swinging out of his shoes this year. That may not be a bad thing if it’s the way he elevates his overall game, but the BABIP is going to come down no matter how hard he’s hitting the ball, and the strikeout rate would climb to untenable levels at AAA/MLB. But, right now, the dude is hitting almost nothing but line drives and fly balls – and clearly hitting them hard. If this is part of an adjustment process into a new way of approaching his at bats, watch out.

Swarmer, 24, is picking up where he left off last year. An unheralded 19th rounder out of college in 2016, Swarmer pitched so well last year in his first full professional season that the Cubs tried him out at stops all the way from Short-Season Low-A to AAA. He has settled into a regular rotation spot at High-A Myrtle Beach this year, and, as the release notes, he’s been brilliant through his first four starts. The peripherals are all excellent, though you should note he’s a fly ball guy, which I know makes some folks nervous. He’s struck out 31.7% of the batters he’s faced this year, and has walked just 3.7%.

I’ve got a feeling Swarmer is going to get the bump to AA sooner rather than later, because the Cubs will want to know how his style plays against more advanced competition. It’s been only four starts, so I won’t go too far, but again, everything on paper looks like a guy who is simply too good for the batters he’s facing.

Congrats to Baez and Swarmer!

Author: Brett Taylor

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