Prospect Report: Is Javier Baez Primed To Arrive In Chicago?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know how highly rated Javier Baez is as a prospect and now it appears like the Cubs are preparing for him to arrive in the Majors. Gone is Darwin Barney with Arismendy Alcantara starting to see time in center field. Suddenly there’s a hole at 2B, coincidentally where Baez has started seeing time at Triple-A.

It all fits together nicely, with the only question being how Baez will produce upon his arrival.

There’s no questioning the power potential he provides, having hit 37 HR between High-A and Double-A a year ago. Sure you can be disappointed from him having “just” 19 HR in the Pacific Coast League this season, but he of course also has 24 doubles and 2 triples. He has a 21.3% HR/OFB this season and owns a 23.7% mark since being drafted in 2011.

The power is there and we don’t need scouting reports to tell us that. He’s going to provide a significant boost from a middle infield spot.

He also has proven capable of stealing some bases. Last year he swiped 20 and was already at 16 in 2014. It just adds to his appeal, as 20/20 potential (with more than that) is so rare at either second base or shortstop.

The biggest question has been his ability to make consistent contact. Baez saw his strikeout rise to 28.8% at Double- A last season and has been even worse at Triple-A this year with a 30.2% mark. That said, he has shown signs of improvement of late:

  • April – 34.9%
  • May – 34.5%
  • June – 29.3%
  • July – 23.2%

It is over just 99 PA, so it certainly is a small sample size, but it is an improvement all the same. It gives us hope, though seeing another spike upon reaching the Majors would not be surprising.

Of course, you have to wonder if the improvement in contact had impacted his line drive rate:

  • April – 5.6%
  • May – 18.8%
  • June – 12.9%
  • July – 9.0%

Overall it’s a 12.4% mark, compared to the league average of 18.9%. Poor line drive rate + inflated strikeout rate + average walk rate (7.8%) is going to equal a poor average, regardless of the power.

The lack of line drive rate is not a new issue, as he owned an 11.5% mark in high-A (league average was 15.3%) and 13.8% mark at Double-A (17.6% was league average). It has to at least be slightly concerning.

Does it mean he can’t hit for a strong average upon reaching the Majors? Absolutely not, but it could take time and likely won’t be there in 2014.

So what should we expect upon his arrival? Plenty of power and some speed, but an average that could be costly. Think .250-.260ish could be his ceiling (he’s hitting .25* at Triple-A) and he could easily come in under that.

Obviously the potential to slug 10+ HR is going to trump that and makes Baez a must own in all formats. Just now what you are getting and be sure to have the average protection already in place.

Source – Minor League Central

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6 comments

  1. jim says:

    i traded JD martinez for gardner. thoughts?

  2. MJ says:

    Well, Springer similarly bad k rates and it has led to a subpar batting average. I see Baez posting similar numbers to Springer’s with maybe less power.

  3. Bryan says:

    Tulo on the DL, roll with Rutledge or Baez? I’m currently rostering Rutledge.

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