Welp that is Randy Johnson level domination...if that doesn't get a top 100 invite not much else will.
Carrie Muskat @CarrieMuskat Dec 5
Theo says @javy23baez will play 4-5 times a week, 2B and SS, in Puerto Rico, and hitting coach Mallee will be there to work with him. #Cubs
This year began with people wondering how long the Cubs could keep Javier Baez down at Triple-A Iowa. It ended with Cubs fans and the Chicago media wondering how you could hand him a big-league job in spring training.
That’s how much perceptions changed after Baez struck out 95 times during his first 229 plate appearances in The Show.
But the reality is the Cubs still expect Baez to be their Opening Day second baseman in 2015. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein made that clear during Tuesday’s postmortem on Clark Street.
“Javy is very likely to be given the opportunity to show he can make those adjustments at the big-league level,” Epstein said. “We believe he will. He’s got some of the best raw ingredients to work with in all of Major League Baseball.
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“But his approach and some mechanical things need to be tweaked. He’s well aware of that (and) he’s excited to make those changes without losing his identity as an aggressive, feisty hitter in the box.
“He’s someone that — for the long-term — you’re going to want to bet on.”
No doubt, Baez has world-class bat speed and the supreme self-confidence summed up by the Major League Baseball logo tattooed onto the back of his neck. The Cubs named him their Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 after a 37-homer, 111-RBI season at advanced Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. Baseball America had ranked him as the industry’s No. 7 overall prospect before his promotion from Iowa in early August.
Baez blasted three homers during that first three-game series at Coors Field, including the game-winning shot in the 12th inning to beat the Colorado Rockies in his Aug. 5 debut. He had six homers the rest of the way, but zero after Sept. 13. He finished the audition hitting .169 with a .551 OPS.
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“Javy is extraordinarily talented and also very raw at the same time,” Epstein said. “He came up as a 21-year-old and learned an awful lot this year. On one hand, how talented he is and how some of those things translate right away to the big-league level. And on the other hand, quite a few adjustments that he’ll have to make and just how good major-league pitching is.
“(There are) some adjustments that he’s going to have to process and make this winter. Some players can make those adjustments in-season. More often than not, they occur over the winter. That’s one of the reasons why we called him up when we did.
“It doesn’t always happen overnight either. He has to look no farther than Anthony Rizzo, who came up at about the same age and really, really struggled and had to go back to the minor leagues and make those adjustments.”
The Cubs don’t want to send Baez back to Des Moines, but they also can’t live with the kid striking out almost 42 percent of the time.
Baez has crushed Cactus League pitching the last two years, so another highlight-reel show in Arizona wouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s also impressed the organization with improved focus and more attention to detail defensively. That maturation is another reason why the Cubs are comfortable betting big on him.
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But it also speaks to a larger point about the rebuild and how the Cubs will construct next year’s roster. They’ll hope to catch lightning in a bottle, but won’t be surprised when Baez, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant struggle. That’s why Epstein can talk about winning the National League Central while at the same time tempering expectations.
“We are competing to win and we’re also developing young players,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to sell out to win in 2015. We’re not going to bail on all our young players the second that they show that there are still more adjustments to be made.
“But at the same time, we have some expectations for them — that they will continue to grind and try to speed up the learning process as much as possible. That’s very much, I think, the story of the 2015 Cubs.”