Were I focused solely on analytical evaluation, I’d probably say something up here about how, in the pantheon of big league shortstops, the best of the best currently would have to go not to Javy Baez, but to his good friend Franciso Lindor. Not only was Lindor the more productive shortstop in 2018, but he’s got a consistent track record of elite level performance than the guy who was taken just one spot behind him in the 2011 draft.
Were I focused on fun, I’d share Javy Baez’s quotes and wonderful confidence in himself:
— Sun-Times Sports (@suntimes_sports) January 20, 2019
Given his breakout in 2018, his stellar defense and baserunning, and the potential he’s always had to be a unicorn, it wouldn’t shock me if Baez does in fact prove to be the best shortstop in baseball in 2019. I don’t know that I’d bet on it, what with such an incredible crop of shortstop talent in the game right now (in addition to Lindor, you’ve got Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and many more). But I’m just saying, it wouldn’t shock me.
Which of course brings me to the notable caveat in what Baez said when he was asked about the best shortstop in the game – he said that it’s him, if he’s playing shortstop. With Addison Russell the incumbent shortstop, and at least arguably better defensively at that position (and with Baez so impactful at second base), it’s possible Baez will be the Cubs’ shortstop only for about a month until Russell returns from his suspension under the domestic violence policy. If Russell is traded or released sooner than that, Baez will, of course, remain the shortstop all season and he’ll have a chance to prove himself the best of the best.
To his credit, Baez is not out there stumping for the job, even if he admits he likes playing shortstop.
“The way that I play, I’m very hyper, so I think shortstop is the position where you’ve got to move more than the other positions,” Baez told the Sun-Times. “If I had the opportunity to play shortstop, it would be great. If not, I would take second, obviously.”
From a pure fan perspective, you’d love to see Baez get a chance to be THE Cubs’ starting shortstop for an entire season, showcasing what he can do all year. If Russell is going to be back with the team, however – if he truly has earned that chance and if Melisa Reidy supports it – I understand the organization wanting to simply create the best defensive combination up the middle, whatever formulation that takes.
Baez will be great out there wherever he plays.