Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez is turning heads with rapid bat speed and huge power in the minors.
Here’s a quick look at Baez, who was recently named the No. 2 shortstop prospect by mlb.com and figures to debut sometime in 2014, most likely at second base.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/195 pounds
Age: 12/01/1992 (21)
2013 Level: Double-A
2013 Stats (combined A+ and AA): .282 AVG, 37 HR, 111 RBI, .920 OPS, 147 K, 40 BB
Scouting Report: Watching video on Baez, his bat speed and power stand out the most. His swing has a lot of movement with the bat and a high-kick timing step. Everything about him at the plate looks like a young Gary Sheffield. His plus-plus power comes from his high bat speed and an aggressive load-lock-swing movement that produces quick hips and a lot torque toward the ball. He’s primarily a pull hitter with an uppercut swing that is best described as violent.
Baez lacks patience at the plate and swings at a lot of bad balls. In 2013, he recorded a very high 28.8 percent strikeout rate with a below average 7.9 percent walk rate. He’s a good ball hitter and doesn’t miss pitchers’ mistakes very often. He has the tendency to get a little long with his swing, but his overall approach is the most urgent hole in his game at the plate. A Sabermetric-minded organization like the Cubs will preach more walks to him.
He’s average in the field with pretty good footwork and a slightly above-average arm. He misses a lot of easy plays and makes far too many errors (44 in 2013). Again, watching video, it seems to be a matter of keeping his head down and staying in front of the ball on the approach and moving forward while maintaining good footwork on the throw — some of the same issues plaguing Starlin Castro. His speed is pretty average, but doesn’t take away from his range. There’s a thought that he would fit at third base, and even some in right field.
Ceiling: Regular all star
2014 Outlook: Baez figures to start in Triple-A and his developmental track will go from there. He’ll come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee as he did last year. A strong showing won’t yield him making the Opening Day roster. He needs too much seasoning on his approach and defense. Triple-A will be a big stepping stone for him, which is where most of the big-league-ready pitchers are at right now. If his approach clears up and he avoids another season of almost 50 errors, he’ll earn some time in Chicago alongside Castro. His stock has jumped significantly since 2012 and should challenge Darwin Barney for the starting gig in 2015 if all goes well again.