When you’re compared to the likes of Gary Sheffield and Hanley Ramirez as a high school player, people tend to take notice. Chicago Cubs scout Tom Clark sure did. On his recommendation, the Cubs selected shortstop Javier Baez with the 9th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB player draft.
We discussed Baez in our 2011 MLB Draft Review right after he was drafted at #9 by the Cubs:
BI Rank – #12 Javier Baez SS Arlington Country Day (FL) - Baez is currently a SS but will move over to 3B as a pro. He has plus plus bat speed plus raw power. He’ll profile well at 3B with an excellent arm but still needs time to mature and focus what can sometimes be detrimental energy. If he can learn to channel the energy into focus he could be an above average hitter to go along with his plus power.
Instinct: The Cubs took a big upside bat here with a questionable position path to the pros. They either don’t believe in Josh Vitters as their next 3B or they think Baez can stay up the middle. Starlin Castro in Chicago and Junior Lake breaking out this season it would seem the SS/2B spot could be solved. So a move to 2B for Baez could be an excellent backup plan to Castro/Lake. But I’m not sure he can handle the position.
The Puerto Rican native went on to sign with the Cubs and made it into 5 games between the Arizona League Cubs and the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League. He went 5-18 with 2 doubles and 2 stolen bases in his brief stint. He looks to open the season back in the Northwest league where we will have several opportunities to get video of him.
55°. Javier Baez, SS/3B, Cubs, 12/1/1992 - Offensively he has lightning quick bat speed, which some have compared to another former Florida high school shortstop, Gary Sheffield. Baez is an aggressive hitter although he did show some ability to take walks as an amateur. He has a chance to be an impact hitter who can hit for average and power, decent speed, as well as a solid glove that will likely need to be moved to 3B or the outfield. ETA 2015.
Here’s what we see in Baez at the plate and in the field to rank him where we did.
Baez is just entering his first season so the data for any type of statistical analysis isn’t available. But the fact that he hit .711 with 20 HR as a High School senior speaks volumes to his ability.
I had one of the top hitting instructors in the country take a look at the Baez video below:
Skills Show Video
Our friend Joe Francisco of The Performance Factory in New York had this to say about Baez hitting mechanics as he broke the swing down in detail:
Relaxed comfortable slightly open stance
Stance is completely individual so it seems to work for him
Gets into a good launch position
Would like to see a smoother easy move getting back
Attacks the ball well
Flattens out the bat and is able to keep it in line with the ball and in the hitting zone for a long time
Gets good extension through the ball giving him the ability to make a mistake in the zone and still square the ball up
Over rotates at times which can lead to him pulling off balls
Definitely has some bat speed and pop
Power potential – matches the plane of the ball well and has a good exit path
Aggressiveness – attacks the ball and doesn’t seem to get cheated
Technique – can definitely clean up his body position and improve his swing making him way more consistent and repeatable
Aggressiveness – may be susceptible to off speed pitches at higher levels
Needs polish mechanically to maximize his ability and reach his high offensive ceiling. Without any game footage its hard to say how he can project but with the lack of instruction at the minor league level he can be hit or miss and is for the most part on his own.
Joe Francisco – March 12, 2012
As a High School SS, Baez has the athleticism to handle any position change that may be in his future. His motions are smooth and his arm is well above average. While I would love to prognosticate his defensive home of the future, I just think there are far too many variables for that to be plausible.
If Junior Lake continues his development and proves that 2011 was not a fluke, it will be Lake that makes the first move to either 2B or 3B. I think that Baez may be able to handle either position as well depending on what happens with Lake.
With that being said, Baez seems to be getting a shot at stick at SS. It’s a very clouded picture in Chicago but a nice problem for them to have: three shortstops with major league bats and needs at other positions.
The top prospect in the Cubs system, Baez has tools on both sides of the game that could make him one of the top hitters in the NL Central. His bat speed is legit and if he can hold onto any bit of his above average speed, he’ll have 5 tool ability when he reaches the majors.
He should start the season back in Boise but could move quickly up the ladder.
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