What Should We Expect From Javier Baez?
Despite Jed Hoyer's best attempt to convince fans otherwise, the Cubs have finally called up mega-prospect Javier Baez. Though he's only being 22-years old, fans have been clamoring for his promotion since the Cubs traded utility man Emilio Bonifacio and designated the offensively challenged Darwin Barney for assignment.
Epstein and Hoyer both denied that the movement of the two middle infielders was foreshadowing a call-up of Baez in the near future. From an executive's standpoint, that's just something if they weren't going to bring him up immediately, which they didn't, but saying the moves had nothing to do with Baez? I'm not buying. Nevertheless, Baez will start tonight in Colorado, and Cubs fans will finally have something to be excited about going forward.
So what should we expect from Baez for the rest of 2014?
"He crushes mammoth home runs..."
Javier Baez drops bombs. He has dropped bombs at every level, and should drop bombs at the Major League level as well. Just think about this for a second. The most games Baez has played at any level is 102. However, he's posted "seasons" of 23, 20, 17 and 12 homers at different levels since 2011. In those four stints with the Cubs A, A+, AA and AAA, he's averaged 18 homers in an average of 72 games at each level. If you're doing the math at home, that's approximately 40 homers per 162. Aside from his obvious home run power, his power metrics are also very pleasing to the eye. In three years as a pro, he has posted a combined ISO of .301 and his ISO in 2014 is .322.
For the Cubs organization, his ability to swing the bat will be a huge upgrade from the men that have patrolled second base so far in 2014:
|2014 Cubs 2B||2014 Javier Baez||Difference|
For those of you unfamiliar with those metrics, wOBA is weighted on-base average and wRC+ is runs per plate appearance on a scale where 100 is average. The numbers that most stand out to me from that chart, however, is the difference in home runs and ISO. The Cubs didn't have a second baseman with more than two home runs at that position in 2014. Javier Baez, on a 162-game scale, would be on pace to hit 36 homers in 2014. Not only is he the future of the franchise, but he is an instant upgrade.
"There are times he looks lost at the plate..."
Baez is 22 years old, and was one of the youngest players in the PCL. Most hitters his age will look lost at the plate from time to time. It comes with the territory. However, Baez may be a more extreme example.
Thus far into his professional career, he has a strikeout rate of 25%. In 2014, it's 30%, the highest rate of his career. 46% of Baez at-bats in 2014 have been extra base hits or strikeouts, which epitomizes what Baez is, at least at this point in his young career. There will be nights that he strikes out three times and looks completely helpless at the dish. There will be nights, even more likely during his debut series in Colorado, where he hits a 450-foot homer. Or two. And yes, there will probably be nights when he strikes out three times, looks completely helpless at the dish, and hits a 450-foot long ball in his other at-bat. This is just who he is right now, and I wouldn’t expect anything different from him, until he matures as a hitter.
Baez’s Oliver Predictions project that Javier will strikeout at a clip over 30% for the next five seasons, as well as hit 40-plus homers in 4 of the next 5 seasons. According to these projections, Baez’s walk rate will hover around 6% and his strikeout rate will improve, but in some years, by less than a percentage points. What I gather from these numbers is that although he will mature and become a better hitter, he is probably going to be a high volume strikeout guy for most of his career. The thing Cubs fans have to be excited about, however, is that these projections have his RBI, ISO, wOBA, wRC+ and WAR all steadily climbing each season. Strikeouts or no strikeouts, Baez is going to be a stud.
What Should We Expect in 2014?
At least for 2014, I think a good comparison to Baez would be George Springer. They both strikeout a lot, even though Springer strikes a bit more, and both have great power. I think, in the end, Baez will be the better player, but in terms of a guy trying to adjust to major league pitching, on the fly, it would be unfair to expect too much out of him. Baez will give the Cubs pop, but he will also infuriate the fans, and even the coaching staff, at times.
Despite the fact that he may not look like a mega-star this season, this is a good day for Cubs fans. There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about the past few seasons on the north side, but seeing Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Starlin Castro patrolling three-quarters of the infield should be a heart-warming sight. Cubs fans also wouldn’t mind seeing a run of the mill, 470-foot Coors Field homer from Javier this week. I mean, you all know that nothing builds up a young hitters confidence quite like the Colorado Rockies pitching staff, right?