Javy Baez Leads the Cubs for Various "Best Tools" Awards, But He's Not Alone

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Javy Baez Leads the Cubs for Various “Best Tools” Awards, But He’s Not Alone

Chicago Cubs

Every season, Baseball America reaches out to managers, scouts, executives, etc. in an attempt to determine which MLB players have the best skills in various categories.

The results of the most recent polls have been released right here – and I encourage you take a look at the full swing of things. It’s fun – and, frankly, useful. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, we must admit that sometimes, as fans, we hang on to narratives that are either out of date or biased in some way (our fandom, the stat lines, recency, etc.). The opinions of the professionals included in this study is not gospel, so to speak, but they are certainly a welcomed counterweight to what we all think we know.

So to that end, I’ll remind you once again to check out the full leaderboards here at Baseball America … before diving into the categories in which the Cubs were 1) involved or 2) should have been. Remember: these have been separated by league.

The Cubs do not land a player *among the top 3* in the best hitter or best power categories, but with Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, and Paul Goldschmidt leading the way in the former and Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Jesus Aguilar leading the way in the latter, it’s hard to feel too left out. Had Kris Bryant not been injured earlier this season, he was looking like a guy who would have been in both, but that’s not where we are.

The next two Cub-less categories, however, I take issue with: Best bunter, best strike-zone judgement. To the former, I really believe Jon Lester should’ve been considered. Despite just 55 plate appearances this season, Lester is tied for the 8th most sac bunts in baseball, just two behind the leader. And, sure, that’s not quite a hammer-dropping stat, but we all know Lester is exceptionally good at it, and I think he should’ve gotten some attention for it.

As for strike-zone judgement, well, I can’t argue with Joey Votto taking the top spot, because he might actually be the best all-time in that regard. But I believe Ben Zobrist should’ve – or, at least, could’ve – probably slid in there instead of Freddie Freeman or Carlos Santana. Then again, it’s worth pointing out that both Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber actually have lower out-of-zone swing rates this year *and* higher zone-swing rates … so maybe Zobrist is slipping. Maybe this is one of those “out-dated” takes a study like this is supposed to shake up! … Nah. Zobrist is still fantastic.

We’ll skip over best hit-and-run artist, because whatever, before coming to our first Cubs-inclusive ranking.

Best Baserunner:

  1. Trea Turner, Nationals
  2. Billy Hamilton, Reds
  3. Javy Baez, Cubs

I’m obviously thrilled to see Baez get the love he deserves here, but it’s especially cool when you consider that he’s not included in the “fastest baserunner” category, which follows. I don’t think there’s much of a discussion needed. Baez is not the fastest guy in baseball like those other two guys, yet he makes the list for best baserunner. AWESOME.

You know what other list he makes? Strike that … LEADS?

Most Exciting Player:

  1. Javy Baez, Cubs
  2. Ozzie Albies, Braves
  3. Nolan Arenado, Rockies

When you steal home multiple times a year, are one of the top defenders in the game at multiple positions, make tagging cool, magically slide into every base, and hit a ton of dingers … you’re the most exciting player in your league – maybe the sport. Glad to see they got this one right.

No Chicago Cubs landed among the best pitchers, best fastball, best curveball, or best slider categories, but Kyle Hendricks did make an appearance on the …

Best Changeup:

  1. Kyle Hendricks, Cubs
  2. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
  3. Max Scherzer, Nationals

In another season, he’d also be on the best control list, but not this year. That said, the people over at Baseball America absolutely messed up the “best pickoff move” category. Kyle Hendricks might not just have one of the best pickoff moves in the NL, it might be one of the best in baseball. I believe that and think that Eric Lauer, Julio Teheran, and Clayton Richard clearly bribed the Baseball Americans to throw the race.

Willson Contreras was not included among the best defensive catchers, but Anthony Rizzo got some love:

Best Defensive 1B:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, D-Backs
  2. Freddie Freeman, Braves
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

… And is right where he should be. Ditto Baez:

Best Defensive 2B:

  1. D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies
  2. Javy Baez, Cubs
  3. Ozzie Albies, Braves

Although, shouldn’t Baez be right on top on that one?

I think you could argue Addison Russell was snubbed for best defensive shortstop, and I think it’s because his bat has been so poor. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Of course, Baez and the Cubs aren’t done yet. As a couple of arms get some love for their work:

Best Infield Arm:

  1. Javy Baez, Cubs
  2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
  3. Brandon Crawford, Giants

Best Outfield Arm:

  1. Jason Heyward, Cubs
  2. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
  3. Hunter Renfroe, Padres

I think Baez is a no-brainer for the top spot among the infielders, but I’m surprised Heyward joins him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s in the top three without a doubt, but Puig’s arm sure seems stronger. Then again, Heyward’s probably a bit more accurate and I’m sure that plays a role.

And last, but not least …

Best Manager

  1. Craig Counsell, Brewers
  2. Joe Maddon, Cubs
  3. Dave Roberts, Dodgers

Query whether Counsell deserves the top spot, though I do like him. Maddon and Roberts continue to be the class of the NL when it comes to managers – or at least the managers who lead very good teams and are perceived to be very good.

There are MANY more categories and leaderboards to check out at Baseball America, plus, you know, all of the ones you’ve seen above, but for the American League. So hop over, give it a look, and tell them how much they’re wrong about something or another.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami