Prospect Profile: Javier Baez

USA TODAY Sports

Brian evaluates Javier Baez's fantasy potential and when Cubs fans could expect to see him in Chicago.

As a diehard Cubs fan, I made it a point to do this write-up on Javier Baez. The franchise has struggled for the past four seasons and is expecting another rough season in 2014, but there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel and it's approaching quickly. The light is comprised of many elite prospects, the best of which might end up being shortstop prospect Javier Baez. An offensive monster with a questionable defensive profile, Baez is the type of prospect that fantasy owners drool over. If he can stick at SS, his fantasy value receives a huge boost, but regardless of where on the diamond Baez plays, he's a contender for future first round pick in all fantasy formats.

Last season across Hi-A and AA Baez hit a monstrous 37 HRs, stole 20 bases and hit an impressive .282/.341/.578. He managed an uninspiring 147:40 K:BB ratio but with the counting numbers he put up, the aggressive approach is a necessary evil. Baez projects to be a slugging SS or 3B with double digit steals capability and a solid AVG to boot. There's a ton of swing and miss to his swing, and I have some fears that it will get exposed at the highest level, but his bat speed is out of this world and should guarantee elite power numbers despite the strikeout totals. The strikeouts are more a result of his hyper-aggressive approach and aren't a byproduct of lack of contact ability. Baez has the barrel any pitch within the same zip code as the strike zone. If he can learn to reign in the approach, there's first overall pick potential in Baez's offensive game.

The upside is similar to Byron Buxton with the added potential of SS eligibility meaning Baez is in the conversation of top prospect in the minor leagues. He comes in at 4th overall in our yet to be released prospect ranks, behind the upside of Buxton, and the high floors of Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa. Only Baez and Bogaerts figure to make an impact in 2014, although there's enough justification to keep Baez in AAA for all of 2014 and save his service time for 2015 when the Cubs figure to be more competitive. After dominating AA pitching, it is clear Baez is ready for the highest challenge, but there are too many variables up in the air to accurately project when he might be up. The performance of Starlin Castro is also a large question mark that has a big impact on Baez's future. Another subpar season from Castro increases the likelihood of Baez sticking at SS and being promoted by season's end.

Baez is best of a Cubs prospect class that is capable of turning around a struggling franchise in short order. He plays the game with an aggressiveness and flair that has long been missing on the North Side of Chicago. He'll be a pleasure to watch and a common denominator among many fantasy baseball championship rosters.

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