Game Observations: Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Dan Straily

Christian Petersen

Jason Hunt attended the Sacramento Rivercats game against the Iowa Cubs on June 14th, and came away with some observations on Cubs' top prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara

In among the moving to a new house (which unfortunately still does not have internet) and a family reunion weekend, one of the activities of that reunion included heading to a minor league baseball game. As a result, I was able to see in person a couple of top prospects, and get a bit more insight into a few of them.

A reminder: I'm not a scout, and absolutely not trained as one. These are purely things that I saw at the game, and which stood out to me as I watched the game.

1. Apparently missing the first half inning misses a lot.

We were running a little behind on our way to the game (after all this was a family reunion event, not a pure writing trip), and as a result we didn't get into the stadium until the bottom half of the first inning. During that time, Arismendy Alcantara hit a single, stole second base, and was caught stealing third base. Javier Baez also flew out in his first at bat, which MILB Gameday said he did on the second pitch of the at bat.

2. Dan Straily looks a lot like he may be back to the form that had him in the majors previously.

Straily pitched extremely well, throwing 7 innings and striking out 9 batters while allowing just one run. His breaking pitches were working extremely well, getting a ton of swings and misses, including eight of his nine strikeouts. He probably still needs to show a bit more given how well the team is doing, but you can see what he can be if he is right.

3. You can see why Javier Baez is an elite prospect...

Baez flashed elite bat speed, which made him clearly stand out from the other hitters on his team. He used a small bat waggle similar to what you would see from Gary Sheffield back in the day, but it really appeared that it was a timing mechanism for him. Apparently the game I should have seen was Sunday's, when he hit a home run to deep center field. To be honest, I've been to probably about 25-30 games at Raley Field in Sacramento, and can't remember too many players hitting a home run to that area of the park.

4. ...And you can also see why he's still at AAA and not in Chicago.

Baez struck out in the first at bat I saw from him on a nasty curveball from Straily, and it sure looked like he had no idea that it might not be a fastball. He did almost the exact same thing in his third at bat of the game, although he did manage to take a couple pitches on that at bat. His fourth had the potential to be what everyone came to see, as he came to the plate with the bases loaded. Unfortunately, he was out in front on an offspeed pitch from Deryk Hooker, and grounded into a double play. Overall, it seemed like he was either sitting dead red for each at bat, and did not appear to make adjustments from at bat to at bat, or was not picking up the pitch type out of the hand. It's something to work on, but not necessarily anything unexpected with the higher quality in AAA than was seen at the lower levels.

The slightly larger concern, and what I believe could keep him in AAA longer than might necessarily be needed for his offensive development, was concerns about his behavior on the field. Earlier in the year, he was ejected for a pronounced gesture after a strikeout as well as having a run-in with with a teammate, which were chalked up as a learning experience. After his third at-bat, (and second strikeout) Baez slammed his bat into the ground so hard it splintered in front of home plate. He wasn't ejected, and while I don't have any confirmation, would assume that he was talked to at some point about this. It's a slightly larger concern than the pitch recognition, if only because it might lead the team to keep him down a little longer to ensure that he's behaving in a manner they would like to see. I don't think it's anything necessarily to worry about long-term, but could delay his timeframe to the majors a bit.

5. Arismendy Alcantara hits better than a super-utility player generally will, but looks like he can fill that role if needed.

Alcantara started at shortstop with Baez in the lineup as the designated hitter on Saturday night, and while Arismendy did make a throwing error on a tough play up the middle, he looked like he can handle the position on the plays that went his way. I will say that I was very impressed with the approach at the plate by him, as he worked a tough walk in the 8th inning after being down 0-2, and ended up coming around to score later in the inning. I didn't get to see the hit he had in the first inning, but his other out in the field of play came on a line drive that was smoked to the right side, but right at the second baseman for the Rivercats.

Overall, I don't think there are a lot of big pronouncements that can be made from these observations. It was a total of six at bats between the two players, but there were things I observed which were in line with other reports which have come out about these prospects. I still think that Baez is a top 5 prospect at worst, and that Alcantara is realistically at least a top 50 prospect for fantasy, and could be the team's second baseman of the future if they don't move Baez there. The minors are about developing, and I do believe we see them both before the season is over in Chicago.

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