Though he's only played 10 games on the season, Javier Baez is the most exciting player on the 2016 Cubs. I'm not saying he's the best player, Kris Bryant is, but Baez is plain fun to watch play the game. You give Baez an inch, he'll take a foot. Every chance he gets he does something dynamic. He's a true five tool guy, the speed, glove, and arm have all already arrived, the only question is if the power and contact skills will be consistent enough to let Baez stick in a Cubs lineup that's already full of elite talents.
The other night, Baez pinch hit and got a single. What happened next was quintessential Javy. Baez proceeded to attempt to steal second, the throw beat him by a good measure, but Baez danced around the tag with a beautiful swim move. It was an amazing display of body control, see it below. Baez was originally called out but the play is overturned after a video review. Baez ended up scoring the 4th and final run for the Cubs in that game, the Cubs ended up winning 4-3. Little plays like that show how talented Baez is.
In today's game, a 7 to 2 victory over the Brewers, Baez came in as a defensive replacement for Bryant who sprained his ankle. Baez went 1/1 with a walk and a run scored. Each time he got on first, he advanced on balls that got away from the Brewers catcher Jonathon Lucroy. These were plays the average baserunner doesn't make, but Baez was standing on second base before Lucroy picked up the ball. His baseball intelligence and aggressiveness are off the charts.
These baseball instincts don't only show themselves on the base paths. Baez can play shortstop, second base, and third base all at an exceptional level. He can also play first base and he dabbles in the outfield. I don't think he played third base professionally at any level before 2015. Now he looks like a potential gold glover there.
With his elite skills, Baez has the potential to be the best player in the league. He has the talent to be that good. Why isn't he the best player in league? He hasn't figured out how to hit pitchers who know how to attack him. Baez will quite often throw away at bats by taking strikes early then expanding late. His approach at the plate is raw and could benefit from a more consistency. Getting the opportunity to play every day and work through some of the issues would go a long way to correcting some of these issues.
Outside of his first stop in the big leagues in 2014 when he struck out 95 times in 213 at bats (44.6% k-rate), Baez hasn't had a chance to play in the major leagues on an everyday basis. With all the improvements that have been made to the lineup since then, Baez could really flourish. In limited playing time so far this year, Baez has looked great and put up stellar base running and defensive numbers (1.1 BsR and 1.4 Def). His 0.7 Off has actually been very good for player with his secondary skills too. A player of this caliber, one who can play elite defense at any position on the infield, is truly a luxury to have off the bench. Someday Baez will put it all together as an everyday player, I hope it happens with the Cubs.
Published on 4/28/2016 9:34:58 PM