A lot of us saw video of Javier Baez launching moonshots in Iowa fresh off the DL and we saw the minimal leg kick and reduced hand load at the top of the swing. We started mentally promoting him to Chicago and imagining all he could do in the middle or back-end of the Cubs’ lineup with this new approach. But in doing so, we may have forgotten a bit about why Baez was in AAA in the first place.
I do believe Baez has improved and that he’s very capable of being a solid major league player for a good number of years, but I think it’s important for everyone to understand that we’re not talking about a night-and-day difference for the young man. When it comes to how he’s going to perform once he comes back up to the majors, we’re not going to a right-handed Kyle Schwarber or anything.
Baez only whiffed once in that fist game back from a broken finger, but he did strike out 3 times in his second game. And in Saturday’s game in which he drove in 5 runs, Javy went down on strikes 3 more times. Bottom line: this kid is going to continue to swing and miss, a lot, and we’re going to need to be okay with that. If he keeps hitting like he has at AAA it’ll all be a moot point, but let’s make sure we’re not all in such a hurry to boot Starlin Castro that we anoint his successor all over again.
Despite the tweaks to his swing, Baez is still striking out at a 26.4% clip that is only marginally better than his career 26.7% average. He is, however, walking at a slightly higher rate. Now, an increase of six tenths of a point (up to 7.4 this season from 6.8 career), but that’s nearly a 9% increase, relatively speaking. No wonder he’s getting on base at a .400 clip after reaching at only a .344 rate throughout his early career.
Yes, this young man is super exciting and, yes, if that swing was concentrated and encapsulated you could sell it via one of those ED drug commercials they air during Cubs games. And just like those ubiquitous ads, a Baez promo would have to run off a list of any number of side effects, among them anxiety, excessive perspiration, increased blood pressure, blurred vision, and paranoia. But even faced with this litany of potential issues, I suggest you call a doctor if your rejection lasts more than four hours.
It’s okay to question the kid, but please be measured about it. Don’t expect him to come up and transform overnight into an on-base machine with mad contact skills (or is that supposed to be “skillz?”). Javy’s got nothing to prove in the minors, but he’s anything but a sure bet in the Bigs. So cut the kid some slack and keep your catcalls to yourself if you happen to be at a game when he comes back up. After all, he could be the 5th-best rookie in the lineup and still be a productive player.
But, boy, if he’s ever able to put it all together…wow. Probably won’t need as many of those blue pills, huh?