WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
It’s mid-August, Cubs fans are buzzing and it has nothing to do with a playoff race that the team is conceivably completely out of.
No, Wrigley Field is loud this weekend not because of team performance (Saturday further reinforced that), but rather because the Cubs faithful got their first chance en masse to welcome one of their best prospects, one of the best to come out the Minor League’s in a while – Javier Baez.
The 21-year-old, right-handed middle infielder weighs in at 6-feet and 195 pounds with a lot of pop, a lot of upside, and hopefully a lot of promise. Back in 2013, Baez hit 20 home runs at the Double A level in just 54 games while managing to still hit .294. This season, his numbers came back down to Earth a bit, but in 104 Triple A games, Baez hit .260 with 23 home runs and had a .323 on-base percentage. Not bad for a kid who was playing Rookie ball just three years ago.
Earlier this week, Baez began his career with late game heroics, knocking an opposite field home run in the top of the 12th at Coors Field to beat the Rockies 6-5. Just two days later, Baez would homer twice in one game, becoming just the second player since 1900 to have three home runs in his first three major league games. If Baez had any chance of taming Cubs fans’ expectations for him, he completely blew that opportunity this week.
Luckily for Baez, the Cubs’ reconstruction won’t be a one-man job, he’s coupled with some other impressive prospects including the likes of Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler to name a few, so he wont likely have to shoulder all of the pressure next season, but there’s no doubt that Cubs fans are anxious to see Baez put on a show this weekend and for as long as he’s in the bigs for the remainder of 2014.
In his home field debut yesterday, the strikeout-prone Baez was 1-5 at the plate with a run score and four strikeouts, but that’s all part of the Baez package, really it is. He has always been a high home run, high strikeout guy, and the Cubs seem to have the developing tools elsewhere in the minors and already in the Majors to pair with him to accommodate for his being such a high strikeout guy.
What of Alcantara?
With Castro at shortstop, Baez will likely settle in at second base for his stint with the Cubs, and perhaps in 2015 and beyond as well.
Alcantara’s position flexibility — he came into the majors playing second but will likely see time primarily in centerfield with Baez in the mix — gives team president Theo Epstein the ability to have both of those guys get looks at major league pitching without having to rotate nights.
I really like the idea of both of them seeing time this year not just for the experience of it all, but also for them not having to come into spring training 2015 with the pressure of the world on their shoulders and them never having seen MLB-level arms. Experience will be on both players side by the time preparations begin for the ’15 campaign.