Highly touted prospect Baez to join Cubs
What better place than Coors Field to bring Javier Baez to the big leagues?
The Cubs will do that Tuesday, when they select the contract of their exciting prospect from Class AAA Iowa and activate him for the series opener against the Colorado Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
The 21-year-old Baez, who is rated by some as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect behind third baseman Kris Bryant, is one of the most exciting hitters in all of professional baseball.
At Iowa this season, he has a batting line of .260/.323/.510 for an OPS of .833. He has 23 home runs, 80 RBI, 34 walks and 130 strikeouts in 388 at-bats.
Two of those home runs came Sunday in Iowa's 7-5 loss at Omaha. While Baez hit a combined 11 home runs in 72 games from April through June, he hit 12 in 32 games in July and the early part of August.
Baez was the Cubs' first-round pick in the June 2011 amateur draft. He was taken by the former Cubs baseball regime, headed by general manager Jim Hendry, who worked hard behind the scenes to sign Baez.
Originally taken as a shortstop, Baez recently moved to second base at Iowa. The Cubs currently have all-star Starlin Castro playing shortstop, with rookie Arismendy Alcantara playing second. It's likely Baez will take over at second base with Alcantara moving to center field. Alcantara had split time between second and center with Emilio Bonifacio, who was traded to Atlanta on July 31.
Baez is 6 feet and 190 pounds, and his bat speed has been compared with that of former slugger Gary Sheffield.
Last season at Class A Daytona and Class AA Tennessee, Baez combined for 37 home runs and 111 RBI. He has been to spring training as a nonroster player with the Cubs, so he has seen plenty of big-league action in Cactus League games.
Baez's defense also seems to have improved. He has just 15 errors this season after making 44 in Double-A and Triple-A last year.
Baez has been part of a highly regarded Cubs minor-league system that also includes Bryant, the team's top draft pick last year, outfielder Jorge Soler, center fielder Albert Almora, shortstop Addison Russell (obtained from Oakland in the July 4 trade of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) and catcher-outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who was drafted this year.
The Cubs confirmed the call-up Monday, but baseball-operations people did not have an immediate comment Monday.
When the Cubs traded Bonifacio and reliever James Russell to the Braves last week, general manager Jed Hoyer downplayed the idea of an immediate call-up for Baez.
"We're not going to change our timetable on any of our prospects based on the moves we made at the big-league level," Hoyer said at the time. "When we feel like those guys are ready and can contribute … with Alcantara, he came up and showed he belongs. Certainly a deal like this doesn't speed that (Baez timetable) along."
The Cubs' approach with all of their prospects since Hoyer came to town in late 2011 along with team president Theo Epstein and scouting and player-development chief Jason McLeod was to allow each player to dominate at a particular level before moving him up.
Epstein, Hoyer and Co. obviously have seen enough domination out of Baez to give him his first shot at the big leagues.
It could be an entertaining three games at Coors Field this week.