A look at the recent news involving Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez
Following in the footsteps of fellow shortstop Addison Russell, 2011 draftee Javier Baez received an invitation to major league Spring Training. On the one hand, it only makes sense. Both players recorded outstanding 2012 stat lines, drawing rave reviews for their performances and production. This is the Cubs way of rewarding Baez for the hard work he put in during the 2012 season as well as a way to incentivize him for the next year. On the other hand, it is a bit surprising that the Cubs would reward Baez in this way when you consider that maturity was a major consideration in the A's decision to invite Russell. Maturity, is not always Baez's strongsuit. From SBN Chicago in April:
Arizona Phil of The Cub Reported, fill us in:
Baez stood at home plate for a couple of seconds after absolutely walloping the gopher ball 400+ feet and off the roof of a house on the north side of 8th Street (Baez did the exact same thing on Tuesday when he launched a three-run homer over the LF fence at Indian School Park in Scottsdale), at which point one of the Angel coaches yelled, "Run the bases!"
Baez initially took the "advice" and he did run the bases (albeit a bit of a "Cadillac" trot that probably further irritated the opposition), but upon reaching home plate Baez stopped and yelled back at the Angel bench, "I can do whatever the f*** I want!"
That's not an isolated incident, nor a recent development. As Keith Law and Jason Churchill noted in their pre-deraft Baez profile:
But the biggest issue for Baez is how he acts on the field. He's more than just flashy, he's very showy, and he doesn't always play like he's fully prepared or engaged.
I haven't heard too many reports on a lack of engagement from Baez thus far in his minor league career, but showboating and flaunting of some unwritten rules seem to be more his style. Perhaps the Cubs endeavor to place him among some professionals and hope he takes note in how they carry themselves on and off the field. Perhaps they view Baez's competitive nature as a plus and think that any resulting "misbehavior" is something of a necessary evil.
We can't really divine Jed Hoyer or Theo Epstein's motives on this front. Instead we must assume that the invitation means the organization continues to look highly upon Baez and could continue to push him aggressively toward the major leagues. It will also allow us to see how Baez fares among premium competition for the likely short while that he is with the major league squad. That said, Cubs' Scouting Director Jason McLeod pumped the breaks a bit:
"As talented as Javy is, we all have to remember he just turned 20," [he] said recently on "Chicago Tribune Live." "He has not played a full season yet. He played three months last summer, had a very good experience in the Midwest League (at Peoria) and we pushed him up to Daytona in the Florida State League, and he struggled there in that last month.
"So that was good for his development. Ultimately he's going to let us know when he's ready, just by the way he performs and does some of the things that are going to be addressed in his player plan. We're all very excited about what the future holds for him, but we also know he has development left ahead of him."
So while an invitation to spring training is in the offing, a call up seems unlikely. This much was probably a given for most fans, but even the optimistic ones should understand that Baez is likely at least a full season away and two would probably be ideal. The Cubs will get a chance to see up close and personal how Baez responds to adversity after a rough ending to the 2012 season and a broken thumb in the Arizona Fall League, and now the rest of us will hope to catch a glimpse on MLB.TV as well.
Some video of Baez courtesy of MLB Advanced Media:
Keith Law & Jason Churchill/ESPN
MLB Advanced Media