Javier Baez is an elite talent that is really starting to grow as a hitter. Since being drafted ninth overall by the Chicago Cubs back in 2011, the 20-year-old Baez has been known as a free swinging hitter. His bat speed is incredible and it allows him to generate a ton of power. Unfortunately, his free-swinging mentality has made for a lot of strikeouts and not very many walks early in Baez’s professional career.
Now, we are starting to see Baez improve his plate discipline. He has cut down on the strikeouts a bit and has improved his walk rate tremendously. Baez just looks like a more patient hitter at the plate as he now waits for his pitch to unleash that incredible bat speed on, instead of swinging at everything like before.
In 36 games at Double-A Tennessee, Baez has a .924 OPS and a .280/.337/.587 triple-slash line. He has 12 home runs and 10 doubles. Power has never been an issue for Baez and that has continued this season as he has 29 doubles and 29 home runs in 449 at-bats between Double-A and High-A.
Since Baez plays shortstop and Starlin Castro has the position locked down for the foreseeable future, I think Baez will have to make a position change before he reaches the majors. A move to either 2B or 3B seems likely for Baez as he is starting to knock on the door of the big leagues.
With Mike Olt, Kris Bryant, Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario all being legitimate 3B prospects for the Cubs, Baez at 2B would probably help the team out the most in the long run. I am sure the Cubs will have Baez working on playing a new position this offseason and in spring training next year.
If the position change goes well and Baez continues to improve his plate discipline, I think it is likely that Baez reaches the big leagues at some point in the 2014 season. No matter how well he does in spring training, I highly doubt that Baez makes the team to start the year, but if he performs well in Spring Training, I think starting the season at Triple-A makes a ton of sense.
If Baez continues to perform at that level, I see no reason why he could not reach the big leagues after the trade deadline in 2014.
It is fun to speculate when he will be playing at Wrigley Field but for now, I am happy just watching Baez grow as a player. He gets better and better every day and there really is no reason to rush him. That being said, if Baez continues to outperform his competition, the Cubs must continue to promote him. I think the Cubs have a future All-Star player in Baez, no matter when he reaches the big leagues.