by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Cubs have recalled Javier Baez from Triple-A. We laid it out before that the Cubs had seemingly cleared a spot, but in case you missed it the clues had become apparent:
- Darwin Barney was sent to Los Angeles
- Arismendy Alcantara started playing CF in the Major Leagues
- Emilio Bonifacio was traded to Atlanta
- And, of course, Baez began playing 2B at Triple-A
We had to know this day was coming, the question now is if Baez is going to be able to make the most of it. There is no questioning the power he possesses, having hit 37 HR between Single and Double-A in 2013 and 23 HR in 388 AB at Triple-A this season in the Pacific Coast League.
In case there was any doubt, keep in mind that he owns a 23.2% HR/OFB after posting a 26.8% mark in 2013 (and a 24.2% minor league mark). He’s going to be a source of power in the middle infield, and that’s a commodity we should all be thirsting for.
He’s also shown that he can chip in a few stolen bases, with 20+ in 2012 and 2013. Throw in 16 prior to his recall this season and there’s a lot to like, but don’t expect him to produce much more than he’s shown thus far. Both Baseball America and mlb.com described his speed as “average”, meaning there isn’t much upside.
The real question is if Baez is going to be capable of hitting for a strong average. Overall he owns a 30.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A, though he did at least show a little bit of an improvement as the season progressed:
- April – 34.9%
- May – 34.5%
- June – 29.3%
- July – 23.8%
Is that enough? It’s hard to say that, considering his minor league career mark of 25.9%. It gets even worse when you add in a 13.2% line drive rate, compared to a league average mark of 18.8%. That just makes his BABIP .322 look hardly repeatable, and given his minor league career marks of 13.3% and .324 there have to be a ton of questions.
Scouting reports give us a little bit of a different view, and obviously can’t be ignored. Prior to the season Baseball America said:
“His patience and pitch recognition improved against better competition, and some scouts see him as an above-average hitter despite his propensity to chase.”
Meanwhile mlb.com recently said:
“He also has the ability to hit for average, if he is able to develop more plate discipline. But Baez is a good bad-ball hitter, and he often finds a way to get his bat on the ball in spite of his aggressiveness.”
Then again, those reports talk about a potential to hit for a good average not someone that is definitely going to. In 2014 it’s something that we can’t bank on, even with a minor league career .278 mark. That’s not going to eliminate value, obviously, but also can’t be ignored.
What would we expect from him over the final two months of the season:
.240 (36-150), 8 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R, 4 SB, .298 BABIP, .288 OBP, .453 SLG
As I said, I would expect there to be some growing pains along the way. The upside is there, but there also is significant downside in the average department hanging over him. He’s worth adding and using, thanks to the power in the middle infield, just keep your expectations in check.
Sources – MILB.com, Minor League Central, Baseball America, MLB.com
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