Javier Baez - SS - Cubs - Today we take a look at a player I believe will be one of the premier middle infield prospects in the minor leagues by season's end. Baez is certainly a risky proposition, but he's the kind where the payoff is worth the investment, as a good showing in Low-A this year could propel him into the upper echelons over the prospect rankings. Let's take a deeper look after the jump...
Drafted 9th overall in the 2011 draft, Javier Baez had perhaps the best bat speed in the entire draft, drawing comparisons to fellow Florida high school phenom Gary Sheffield. In a draft loaded with pitching, Baez's bat stood out, and he was the second shortstop off the board, behind only Francisco Lindor. He generates plus power with an aggressive swing that generates loud, hard contact. Baez produces his prodigious power with remarkably fast hands and impressive torque and rotation in his hips. He has shown a penchant for overswinging at times but is working to control his swing. Mistake him not for Kanye West, as power is not his only tool. Baez also has an above average hit tool, and the Cubs believe he could pair his plus power with a 70 hit tool by the time he is done developing.
The good news doesn't stop there however, as he also boasts a third above-average tool in his arm. His speed and range play up in the field due to his instincts, and while many thought he'd have to move off shortstop when he was drafted, the consensus is that he has a chance to stick right now. If forced to move, Baez's bat would profile well anywhere, and he has the tools to play 2nd, 3rd, or right field, and has even caught before. Whether he is able to stay at shortstop could be more about whether he outgrows the position than about his ability to actually play it.
When it is all said and done, Baez could have the most value out of any position player in this draft, and that includes Anthony Rendon. He already has the highest ceiling in the Cubs system, and I include Anthony Rizzo in that statement. If he ends up as a 70 hitter with 65 power, and an average defender at shortstop, then you're talking about a top 10 player in the league and fantasy as well. That is obviously a highly optimistic projection as Baez carries a lot of risk, as many factors could affect his future value. His defensive position, his approach at the plate, and his emotional control and work ethic are all question marks right now. That said, any combination of those things working out leave his base value fairly high, and if they all click he could be something special. I am very high on Baez, and expect big things out of him as he starts his full season career at the Low-A level.