Results tagged ‘ Javier Baez ’

1/20 Cubs convention wrap up

The Cubs Convention closed on Sunday with an informative session on the Minor League system. Here are some highlights from that:

* Javier Baez will open the 2014 season at Triple-A Iowa and is close to getting to the big leagues. The Cubs already have a young shortstop in Starlin Castro, who turns 24 in March. This spring, Baez may get some playing time at second base, depending on what the Cubs and manager Rick Renteria want to do.

“Our goal for Javy is to have him play shortstop for as long as he possibly can,” said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development. “He certainly has some things to clean up with the errors that were made last year.”

The Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, Baez made 44 errors combined last season.

* Some past Cubs’ first-round picks have struggled. Brett Jackson, 25, the No. 1 selection in 2009, and Josh Vitters, 24, the first-round pick in 2007, both battled injuries last season. Jackson batted .210 in 95 games, while Vitters hit .267 in 33 games.

“They did not stay on the field long enough, first and foremost,” McLeod said. “We still have belief in both of them, especially a guy like Josh. He was drafted in 2007, and you’ve heard his name so much, you’d probably think he’s 26 years old or 25 years old. When he was on the field, the performance was pretty good. He was born to hit and he’s always hit. There were other parts of his game that we felt he had to work on.”

Vitters is focusing on left field, and he and Jackson will be in the Cubs’ Spring Training camp.

“They both took this offseason to regroup, get healthy, and they’ll both be in camp here in a couple weeks,” McLeod said.

* McLeod has a little bit of history with Justin Grimm, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last July. When McLeod was with the Red Sox, he drafted Grimm out of high school. The Red Sox invited the right-hander to Fenway Park for a visit and he arrived alone. Grimm had a scholarship offer to attend Georgia.

“I think he just wanted a free trip to Boston, to be honest with you,” McLeod said Sunday.

Grimm didn’t sign, and was selected in the fifth round by the Rangers in 2010. He signed. But McLeod saw him before that when Grimm was pitching for Georgia in the SEC Tournament as a freshman. Theo Epstein, who was the Red Sox GM at the time, watched the young pitcher. It was the first time Epstein saw Grimm.

“He comes out firing 97 mile an hour fastballs, and Theo is about 15 rows up behind me and comes down in front of a full section of scouts and tells me, ‘You’re fired,’” McLeod said.

In the end, the Cubs and McLeod did get Grimm as he was part of the package for Garza.

* McLeod said the Cubs are waiting to see which team Masahiro Tanaka picks. Expect a decision this week. Friday is the deadline.

“Obviously, he’s talented and I think any team in baseball would want a 25 year old starting pitcher,” McLeod said. “We’ve scouted him extensively over the years. … The evaluation process is complete. We met with him last week in [Los Angeles] and we’ll find out in the next week. He’s obviously talented.”

* Among the Convention highlights was seeing the fans’ response to Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Mark Prior. All received loud ovations whenever they appeared at an event.

* Mark your calendar: Single game Cubs tickets go on sale March 7.

* If you can’t make it to Mesa, Ariz., this spring, you can listen to Cubs broadcasts on Cubs.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillespie.

– Carrie Muskat

1/15 Cubs rookies notebook

The 15 prospects taking part in the Cubs’ Rookie Development Program took a break from their baseball studies to attend a Blackhawks’ game on Tuesday. For many of them, it was their first NHL game, and also a chance to see how rabid Chicago fans are about their team.

“Being at the stadium and watching all the people go crazy during the national anthem, that was awesome,” pitcher Pierce Johnson said Wednesday of the rousing performance before every home Blackhawks game. “I can just imagine what it’ll be like when we turn it around and actually win a World Series. I’m excited. It gives me chills.”

The Cubs are counting on the talent participating in this week’s program to get them that championship.

Joining Johnson were pitchers Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, Eric Jokisch, C.J. Edwards, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino; outfielders Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Rubi Silva; and infielders Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Christian Villanueva, Mike Olt, and Arismendy Alcantara. Eleven of the players rank among the Cubs’ top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com. Hendricks, who completed his economics degree at Dartmouth, was the Cubs’ 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

The week-long program includes drills, a hospital visit, and seminars, and will end with the Cubs Convention this weekend. The guest speakers included Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, manager Rick Renteria and former player Rick Sutcliffe.

“It prepares us for what’s coming,” Almora said. “They’re teaching us about what to get ready for, what to expect, what they expect from us. We’re taking it to heart, we’re taking notes. We’re in this for the long run.”

* Jason McLeod, head of scouting and player development, said Baez will open the season at Triple-A Iowa along with Villanueva and Alcantara. Bryant could be at Double-A Tennessee, and it was still to be determined where Almora and Soler will start the year.

* Two of the five Cubs prospects injured in a car accident Jan. 6 in the Dominican Republic remained hospitalized. Kevin Encarnacion and Jose Zapata were both doing well but still receiving treatment. Encarnacion played at Class A Boise last year.

* Jorge Soler is 100 percent healthy after a leg injury shortened his season. Soler played in the Arizona Fall League but was told to take it easy, McLeod said. The outfielder has been impressive in his approach at the plate. On Wednesday, Soler said he missed too many games last year, and was eager to get back to playing.

* C.J. Edwards is trying to gain weight. At the Blackhawks game, the skinny pitcher ate an Italian sausage, cheese fries, and a hot dog with cheese on it. Said Edwards: “Anything I see, I eat.”

* Javy Baez knows fans are clamoring for him to get to the big leagues. He’s doing everything he can but everyone wants to know when.

“As soon as possible,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

1/15 Cubs rookie development program

Fifteen of the Cubs top prospects are taking part in the Rookie Development Program this week, and had a workout on Wednesday at Northwestern University. Among the players taking part are infielders Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva, and Arismendy Alcantara; outfielders Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Rubi Silva; and pitchers Pierce Johnson, Neil Ramirez, Eric Jokisch, Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino. The week is filled with seminars plus the players had a chance to watch Tuesday night’s Blackhawks’ NHL game.

Jason McLeod, Cubs player development and scouting director, did say Baez would open at Triple-A Iowa and Bryant most likely at Double-A Tennessee.

I’ll have more from the workout a little later today.

– Carrie Muskat

12/30 A look back at 2013

The 2013 season was another step in the Cubs’ rebuilding process. For the second straight year, the Cubs dealt 40 percent of their starting rotation. They seemed to set a record for most deals in July as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Scott Hairston also were traded. In August, David DeJesus was sent to the Nationals.

In return, the Cubs felt they strengthened the organization with players such as third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Jake Arrieta, Ivan Pineyro, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black. It’s all part of Theo Epstein’s plan since taking over as Cubs president of baseball operations.

All the transactions didn’t solve the 2013 team’s problems, and the Cubs finished last in the tough National League Central at 66-96, the fourth straight year they’ve posted a sub .500 season.

As 2013 comes to a close, here are five storylines from the Cubs’ season:

5. Hot prospects

Every time Javier Baez hit a home run, or first-round Draft pick Kris Bryant won another award, there were questions about where the Cubs top prospects would fit in the big league lineup. Baez, the No. 1 pick in 2011, and Bryant, who was the second overall selection in June, stole some of the headlines from the big league team. The Cubs front office’s mantra is that the kids need time to develop but fans are eager for someone to cheer for. Baez, who belted 37 homers and drove in 111 runs combined at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and Bryant, the college player of the year who was named the Arizona Fall League MVP, aren’t the only super kids. The list of potential impact players in the Cubs system also includes Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, and Jorge Soler. Now, the question is when.

4. Marmol, Fujikawa and Gregg

Carlos Marmol lost the closer’s job one week into the regular season, and Kyuji Fujikawa took over but he was limited because of elbow problems. The Japanese pitcher eventually needed Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs had to scramble. They signed Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers April 3, and he proceeded to reclaim the job, finishing with 33 saves. Marmol was eventually traded to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier, and didn’t get another save opportunity the rest of the season. The Cubs bullpen was a problem most of the season, ranking on the bottom of the National League in ERA, walks, and home runs allowed.

3. Alfonso Soriano is traded to Yankees

For the second straight year, the Cubs were busy at the Trade Deadline, but none of the moves affected the players the way the departure of Alfonso Soriano did. The veteran outfielder was dealt to the Yankees, where he began his U.S. pro career in 1999. He has one year remaining on the eight-year, $136 million contract he signed with the Cubs in November 2006. While fans were critical of Soriano’s defensive ability, he was revered in the Cubs clubhouse. Soriano topped the Cubs in home runs and RBIs at the All-Star break, and they struggled to fill his spot in the lineup after he left. The Cubs may have been the only team to use a backup catcher, Dioner Navarro, in the No. 4 spot.

2. Manager Dale Sveum is dismissed

Sveum was a no nonsense kind of guy. He held players accountable. He believed in face to face communication. In Spring Training, he organized a bunting tournament, and included himself in the bracket. When Sveum was hired in November 2011, Epstein trusted the manager and his coaching staff to compile “The Cubs Way” handbook, to be used throughout the organization.

The Cubs lost 197 games in two seasons under Sveum, but Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer said the record wasn’t the reason the manager was dismissed. There were issues regarding the development of some of the Cubs, and Sveum got his signals crossed with a few players and the front office.

“There has to be a clear, unified message, and [players] can’t be getting different signals from different directions and collectively — myself included — we failed to provide that,” Epstein said.

Sveum wasn’t out of work for long. Royals manager Ned Yost waited one hour after Sveum was dismissed before calling to offer him a job on Kansas City’s coaching staff.

1. Starlin Castro takes a step backward

Castro was disappointed when he didn’t bat .300 for a third straight season in 2012, finishing at .283. But no one expected the shortstop to struggle as much as he did in 2013, batting .245 — including a .167 June. What happened? The shortstop lost his aggressive approach, struck out a career-high 129 times, and often looked lost at the plate. He was dropped to eighth in the order in August.

“This year, it’s too many things to think about [and] I’m not supposed to think [up there],” Castro said. “Sometimes you have a tough season, and you want to please everybody. But it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you — not everything. When you come to home plate, you don’t have any idea, because you listen to too many things.”

Toward the end of the season, Castro announced he was just going to “be me.” The shortstop may be the Cubs’ new leadoff man in 2014 — he batted .263 there this past season — and the team can only hope he regains his approach, especially since this is Year 2 of his seven-year, $60 million contract.

– Carrie Muskat

12/23 Javy Baez’s “miracle” sister

Want to know what motivates Javier Baez? It’s his “miracle” sister, Noely. On Christmas day, Javier will gather with his family to celebrate, just as others do, but for them, every day is a holiday because of her.

“[Christmas] is very, very special,” Baez said. “When my sister was born, doctors said she wouldn’t last 20 minutes, that she wouldn’t last from one room to another one. Last November, she turned 20. Every day is special.”

Noely Baez, 20, has spina bifida, the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States. It literally means “split spine,” and happens when the spinal column does not close all the way. Noely can’t walk, but that’s about the only thing she can’t do.

“She’s very, very independent,” Javier said from his Jacksonville, Fla., home. “That’s why I don’t like people to feel sorry for us. She’s very independent. When we’re in the house, we cannot touch her wheelchair. If we touch it, she’ll lock the wheels, and say, ‘No, don’t push me.’ She wants to do it by herself.”

Javier and Noely and their two older brothers were born in Puerto Rico, but the family moved to the U.S. so Noely could get better health care. Before arriving in Jacksonville, they were traveling three or four times a month to the U.S. for treatment.

Javier and his two brothers developed a love for baseball because of their late father, Angel Luis Baez. He died when Javier was 10 years old.

“He was a big part of my life,” Baez, 21, said of his father. “I like people to know who he was in my life.”

Angel Baez worked with a landscaping company in Puerto Rico, which meant long hours and tough, physical labor.

“He was one of the most amazing dads,” Baez said. “He got home from work at 6 o’clock at night, and he’d get to the house and take us to the field almost every day. He was really important in our lives. He is a special person in our history.”

So is Noely.

“We don’t see her as someone who is different from us,” Javier said. “She’s a miracle for us. She’s a miracle in our lives. We don’t feel sorry for her, like, ‘Oh, we have to do this for her.’ God put this miracle in our lives and He did it for a reason. There’s no time for us to feel sorry about it.

“When I was a little kid, and I didn’t understand her situation, yeah, I thought, ‘Wow, we have a handicapped sister’ and it’s hard for my mom,” Javier said. “Once I started growing up and lived with her everyday, I realized this is not hard for us. God gave us this miracle. That’s what she is, a miracle. She’s in our lives for a reason.”

And Javier Baez wants to do what he can to raise awareness of spina bifida. Last winter in Jacksonville, he hosted a pizza party for local children with spina bifida. When the Smokies played against the Suns in a Minor League game in Jacksonville, Baez invited the children to attend.

It was quite a day. On Aug. 6, Tennessee’s Eric Jokisch threw a no-hitter in a 10-0 win. Baez went 4-for-6, hitting two doubles, driving in three runs, stealing a base and scoring three runs. He also helped save the no-hitter with one out in the ninth by making an acrobatic play when he dove and caught a ball behind the second base bag.

“They saw me, and they were excited to watch me play but I was more excited that they were there for me,” he said of the kids.

He’s hoping to do another event for the spina bifida children in Jacksonville before he heads to Arizona to begin Spring Training. This will be his second season in the Cubs’ big league camp, and Baez already feels more at ease.

“I learned everything [last spring],” he said. “I was looking around to see what I could get from the other guys, the big leaguers. That’s my goal to get where they are. I’m a real quiet person on the field, but I’m always looking around and picking up stuff from everybody. I’ll feel comfortable once I get there next year because I’ve been there already. I’ll continue to learn from everybody, from the new guys who come in to the veterans. I learn from everyone.”

This offseason, he was reminded once again how fragile life is. On Oct. 13, Baez tweeted, “Pray for my sister please.” Noely had to be hospitalized.

“We thought we were going to lose her,” Baez said.

His sister’s lungs stopped functioning, and for three weeks, she was on a ventilator. The doctors finally decided to take the ventilator out.

“God put his hand on her,” Baez said. “She stopped breathing. They said, ‘We can’t do anything else. We have to see how she’ll react.’”

She survived, and it’s taken some time for Noely to get her strength back, to be able to eat solid foods. She plans on going back to school in January, and has made it clear she doesn’t need her mother to take her to school. As Javier said, Noely feels she’s old enough to go by herself.

“I go places and people ask me, ‘Oh, I heard about your sister — what does she have? What’s happening to her?’” Javier said. “People don’t know [about spina bifida]. Sometimes I talk to people about it, and I have to explain what it is. People still don’t know.”

What Baez does know is that when the Cubs do promote him to the big leagues, he wants Noely there. Not only does he have a tattoo of the MLB logo but also one for each of his brothers and his miracle sister.

“We celebrate Christmas and it’s a very special season, but for us, every day is special,” Javier said. “Every day we wake up and see her laughing and playing around, and it’s special for us.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/5 Baez to stay at short for now

Javier Baez, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is creating a lot of buzz as he gets closer to the big leagues. However, he’s a shortstop, and the Cubs already have a talented shortstop in Starlin Castro. Do the Cubs move Baez? Not now, Theo Epstein said.

“At some point, creating options and creating versatility is a good thing,” Epstein said Thursday. “In Javy’s case, he’s got a tremendous combination of instincts and athleticism which makes us think he’ll be a natural at playing other positions.”

Epstein said amateur scouting reports say Baez could play every position, including catcher.

“I think it’ll be an easy transition for him if and when that time comes,” Epstein said. “He hasn’t even reached Triple-A yet. There’s plenty of time to do it. You don’t want to take shortstop away from a kid. Once you move off shortstop, it’s really hard to move back.

“There may be a time in the future when he moves on a permanent basis, and there may be time when we move just to give him versatility,” he said. “In Spring Training, he’ll play plenty of shortstop and that might be a time to move him around as well.”

Baez, 21, was named the Cubs’ Minor League player of the year after batting .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBIs at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

– Carrie Muskat

9/24 Extra bases

* With top prospect Javier Baez not playing in the Arizona Fall League, the Cubs have added infielder Wes Darvill to the Mesa Solar Sox roster.

“He’s an interesting player and does a lot of things well on the field and has good instincts,” Theo Epstein said. “It’ll be a nice opportunity for him.”

Darvill, 22, a fifth round pick in 2009, began this season at Class A Kane County, and batted .347 in 15 games before he was promoted to high A Daytona, and hit .253 in 79 games. A left-handed hitter, he played primarily at second base, but also played third and shortstop.

Albert Almora, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was on the Mesa taxi squad, but now will have the chance to play every day, Epstein said.

The Cubs also pulled Arodys Vizcaino off the AFL roster so he could pitch in instructional league, and were expected to add a pitcher to Mesa.

* Second baseman Darwin Barney did not start Tuesday, but will be back in the lineup on Wednesday in the home finale. Barney was batting .156 in 20 games this month. Could he be worn down?

“You never know,” manager Dale Sveum said. “I don’t know about physically but mentally he’s probably not where he wants to be.”

* The Cubs have four players converting to catcher during instructional league, including Ben Carhart, Gioskar Amaya, Giuseppe Papaccio, and Jordan Hankins. Epstein said the moves were an “experiment” for the quartet. Carhart played first and third with Daytona this season, batting .247, while Amaya played second base for Kane County. Hankins and Pappacio, both infielders, were selected in this year’s Draft in the 11th and 18th rounds, respectively.

– Carrie Muskat

9/21 Hendricks, Baez honored

Kyle Hendricks knows the importance of a good education. Hendricks, honored on Saturday as the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, returned to classes at Dartmouth last Monday to finish his degree. He’s majoring in economics with a minor in math.

“It’s tough,” Hendricks said about going back to school after a summer of baseball. “It’s fun being back and I still know some of the guys on the baseball team there. It’s definitely difficult being back in the classroom, taking classes.”

He’d rather focus on his fine-tuning his changeup, but he’ll graduate after this final semester and then it’ll be full time baseball.

Hendricks hasn’t received the amount of attention Javier Baez has. Baez was honored as the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year on Saturday after hitting 37 home runs and driving in 111 runs at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee combined. Baez had an eye opening Spring Training with the big league team.

“The guy’s a super athlete,” said Cubs Minor League director Brandon Hyde of Baez. “There’s still a lot of developing left. Sometimes he gets big and tries to do too much but that’s just youth. As soon as he matures as a hitter and continues to grow, it’ll be scary.”

Baez, 20, was going to continue his season in the Arizona Fall League but the Cubs decided the shortstop needed some rest, so he will instead go home to Florida, but take part in two mini camps in Mesa, Ariz., in November and then January. He downplayed his impressive statistics this season.

“I was just trying to do my best every time I played on the field and tried to do good,” Baez said.

Hendricks was Baez’s teammate at Tennessee, and knows how to deal with the shortstop.

“Don’t leave it over the plate,” Hendricks said about pitching to Baez. “[If you do] it’s going to go a long way. He’s a real good player. I’m excited to be here and share this with him.”

Hyde said he’s not just impressed by Baez’s power but also his baserunning and defense. The errors he made were mainly because the shortstop tried to do too much, Hyde said.

“His instincts to play are off the charts,” Hyde said. “I think he’s just scratching the surface to be honest.”

Baez was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Hendricks, 23, was acquired in July 2012 from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster deal.

“He was opening our eyes from the beginning,” Hyde said of the right-hander. “He’s unbelievably intelligent, knows how to attack hitters, knows hitters weaknesses, knows hitters strengths. He’s developing a better breaking ball. What an incredible year he had.”

Hendricks combined to go 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and a complete-game shutout in 27 starts between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He struck out 128 batters and walked 34 over 166 1/3 innings pitched. The right-hander limited opponents to a .229 batting average.

Being at Wrigley Field on Saturday was eye opening for Hendricks.

“This is what you dream of, being on this field,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

For now, it’s back to school on Monday.

“This is my last quarter,” Hendricks said. “I have four classes and then I graduate. I figure while I have the opportunity, I might as well go back. It’s only a nine week quarter, so it’ll go by quick. It’ll go by quick.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/20 Minor matters: Baez & more

Javier Baez may not be playing in the Arizona Fall League but he will make at least two trips to Mesa, Ariz., to work with Cubs hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce and others. Baez, the top prospect on MLB.com’s list of Cubs’ 20 prospects, also will play some second and some third base, but do so “at the right time,” Theo Epstein said Friday.

Baez, who be honored on Saturday as the Minor League Player of the Year, was on the Mesa Solar Sox roster for the AFL but the Cubs decided the shortstop needed a break from a long season at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. He hit 37 home runs and totaled 111 RBIs in 130 games combined.

“What I really like about him is his insincts of the game,” Epstein said. “[It's impressive] for a high school kid to show up in pro ball … to show a feel for the game, a feel to be a winning player. On defense, he’s got a great internal clock, and he knows how fast the runner is at first, he knows what he needs to do, how quick his release has to be on his throw. He was born with it. He showed that in high school and has carried that over into pro ball.”

Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development, said if Baez did have to move from shortstop, that he felt second would be an easier transition.

“I don’t think any of us envisioned he’d hit 37 home runs,” McLeod said of Baez. “There are very few 20 year olds who did what he did.”

Kyle Hendricks will be honored as the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year on Saturday as well in pre-game ceremonies. McLeod said the right-hander showed a strong ability to “dissect the plate” with his pitches. McLeod also was excited to see how C.J. Edwards, Corey Black and Pierce Johnson developed after strong seasons in the Minors.

As for third base, Kris Bryant, the team’s No. 1 pick in the June First-Year Player Draft, will play in the AFL. He will open next year in either Daytona or Tennessee. The Cubs have two other talented third baseman in Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario. McLeod said Villanueva may be the best defensive third baseman in the organization. The Cubs also are eager to see what Mike Olt can do. He was acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, and will spend some time working out in Mesa.

– Carrie Muskat

9/19 Baez to miss AFL

Cubs top prospect Javier Baez will not play in the Arizona Fall League, general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday, so the shortstop can rest for the 2014 season.

“He’s emotionally and physically drained after the season,” Hoyer said. “We have no problem with [him missing the AFL].”

Baez was one of four Cubs prospects headed to the Arizona Fall League, and would have joined this year’s first-round pick Kris Bryant, outfielder Albert Almora, who was the No. 1 selection in 2012, and Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler on the Mesa Solar Sox.

Almora and Soler both missed time in the Minor Leagues this year because of injury, while Baez started at Class A Daytona and moved up to Double-A Tennessee. The 20-year-old shortstop was named the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year after batting .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBIs in 130 games in his second pro season. He will be honored on Saturday at Wrigley Field along with Kyle Hendricks, who was named Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

“The last thing we want him to do is go there and risk injury,” Hoyer said. “He had a full season, he had a great season, and I feel we’ll see him in Arizona working out.”

The Cubs may add another player to the Mesa Solar Sox roster.

– Carrie Muskat

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