10/10 Keep an eye on Baez
At 19, Javier Baez is the second youngest player in the Arizona Fall League, and making a huge jump, competing against players who have been in Double-A or Triple-A.
“He’s a guy who, mentally, we felt was ready for the Fall League, ready to be pushed like that, ready to be challenged like that,” said Jason McLeod, head of scouting and player development for the Cubs.
On Tuesday night, Baez looked ready. The Cubs’ top prospect went 2-for-3 for the Mesa Solar Sox, hitting a solo home run in the second inning into the upper tiers of the batter’s eye in straightaway center at Salt River Fields, and added a tie-breaking two-run double in the sixth. The homer was impressive, even in the dry Arizona air.
Told that he’s one of the youngest in the AFL — only the Rangers’ Luis Sardinas is younger — Baez just shrugs.
“I’ve heard that,” Baez said. “If you do good here, you have to keep working hard. They just tell me to do my job every time, play hard, do everything right.”
He flashed some of his defensive skills as well with a diving stop of a ball, and nearly threw the runner out. Replay might have backed up Baez. What’s impressed McLeod and others are the shortstop’s instincts for the game.
“When you watch him play defense and watch him on the bases, he plays like a veteran who has been in the Major Leagues for a long time and at a very young age,” McLeod said. “That was the most pleasant surprise for me and it’s really fun to watch him on defense. It’s like he sees things before it happens.”
It wasn’t a perfect night. Baez did strike out twice. But he was perfectly positioned on defense, backing up on plays in the infield.
“He’s got tons of talent and it’s not just hitting, it’s his overall game,” said Tom Beyers, Cubs Minor League hitting coordinator. “One of his biggest strengths is aptitude. I was very impressed with how he took instruction and applied it right away in a ballgame. Some guys, that process takes longer than others. His is pretty quick, and the knowledge he has of how the game is played, he always seems to be a step ahead.”
– Carrie Muskat