The Chicago Cubs are starting to have an interesting situation on their hands.
While he has struggled at times this season, Starlin Castro is an obvious core player for the Cubs, and more than likely has the shortstop position locked up for the foreseeable future. He has struggled defensively at times and his numbers this season leave plenty to be desired. That being said, Castro is a two-time All-Star and he is only 23-years-old.
Waiting in the wings in Double-A is shortstop Javier Baez who is considered by many, including myself, to be the top prospect in a very talented Cubs minor league system.
Baez is a very athletic player. He has good speed, a very strong throwing arm and incredible bat speed. His bat speed gives him impressive power that only seems to be getting better. The biggest knock on Baez has been his plate discipline. He strikes out too much and is not walking enough.
Recently, Baez has seemed to turn the corner in that department. He is being more selective with pitches and working deeper counts, and that has resulted in more walks and fewer strikeouts. If Baez has actually turned the corner, look out because the sky is the limit with this guy.
Defensively, similarly to Castro, Baez is inconsistent at shortstop. He has 38 errors this season and he must improve on this if he is going to be a key player for the Cubs. Because of his athleticism, Baez makes incredible defensive plays at times, but he must start making the routine plays more often.
On Wednesday, Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod hinted that a position change may be in Baez’s future. “I’m sure as we get into spring training next year you’ll see him taking ground balls at other positions just to see what it looks like,” McLeod told ESPNChicago. “Typically it starts to happen when a guy gets into Double-A and now you’re thinking he might be within a year of arriving in the major leagues.”
With the Cubs talking about a position change, it appears that they are trying to find room for him at the major league level with Castro holding down shortstop.
Both second and third base make sense for Baez. Personally, I hope that Baez can handle 2B, as he would be a huge offensive upgrade to Darwin Barney. Also, the Cubs have prospects like Mike Olt and Kris Bryant who have the potential to be great. Both of these guys are currently third basemen. It would be huge for the future of the franchise if Baez can handle second base.
It will be very interesting to follow Baez this offseason and next spring training. Even though it appears that Baez will have a spot on the major league roster in the not-too-distant future, he must continue to improve his plate discipline and defense. He still has plenty of work to do, but things seem to be coming together for Baez. Hopefully soon we can add his name to the group of core Cubs players at the major league level.