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Player Profile: Javier Baez

The definition of a lottery ticket.

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Javier Baez was one of the most hyped players in baseball going into last year's keeper and even deeper redraft leagues.   In Spring Training he was slugging moonshots and playing both short stop and second base.  Managers of fantasy teams, myself included were salivating over a .264/.278/.604 slash line, or an .887 OPS.  His K/BB was insane as always, but who cares with that kind of production, AMIRITE?  When a player absolutely whales fastballs like Baez was, what can go wrong?

Courtesy of thefantasyfix.com

But the Cubs used classic ownership wanting to push back arbitration speak and said, Baez could use more seasoning in the minors and could use more reps at 2B before we call him up.

As a former Baez owner and fan, his 2014 season in AAA was a catastrophe.  His batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage dropped significantly from his 2013 totals in A+ and AA, to last season in AAA.

Year

Tm

Lev

G

PA

R

H

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2013

2 Teams

A+-AA

130

577

98

146

37

111

20

40

147

0.282

0.341

0.578

0.92

2014

Iowa

AAA

104

434

64

101

23

80

16

34

130

0.26

0.323

0.51

0.833

Baez crapped the bed, in his last stint in the minors, but I was still a believer, his bat speed is special.  As soon as he was called up I activated him on my roster in my keeper league, and then I fully witnessed the slow moving train wreck, dumpster fire, approachless (not a real word) talent that Baez truly was.  First I'll leave you with his stats from last year.

Year

PA

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2014

229

213

25

9

20

5

15

95

0.169

0.227

0.324

0.551

51

From this point on, I'm going to pull stats from everyone who had at least 220 PA, growing the player pool significantly, and allowing many players of lesser talent, and injury shortened guys to be compared to Baez.  Let the madness begin.

Out of every player with 220 PA Baez had the worst K rate, 41.5%, the 6th worst batting average, the worst on base percentage, and his slugging percentage was 38th worst, if you wanted to measure his production by his OPS, he was the 7th worst overall hitter in baseball.  For people who enjoy advanced statistics his wRC+, 51, was 7th worst, and his wOBA, .248, was 7th worst, and his BB/K, 0.16, was the 16th worst in baseball.

Next we'll check his plate discipline figures, still using the 220 PA pool.  His 41% chase rate was 16th worst in baseball, and his contact on balls chased, 42.1%, was the second worst.  When pitchers were bothering to throw him strikes he decided to swing the 34th least in baseball, and made the 16th least contact on those strikes.  Despite all of this he somehow only had the 2nd worst swinging strike rate in baseball, Junior Lake took home the title.

But perhaps on those few balls he did somehow hit, regardless of if they were strikes or balls, maybe he was doing something noteworthy with them!  Indeed, more woe is about to be poured on poor Javier.  His 13.7% line drive percentage was 7th worst in baseball, tied with fantasy team nuke Brett Lawrie.  His 41% ground ball percentage was equal to that of Will Middlebrooks, and his 45.3 fly ball percentage left him sandwiched between Brian McCann and Juan Francisco.  His infield fly ball percentage, 20.8, was third worst in baseball and just barely worse than fellow rookie catastrophe Jon Singleton.  The lone highlight so far into this article is the one stat that reflects Baez's epic bat speed, HR/FB%.  His 17% was 35th in baseball, and ties him with fellow beasts Kennys Vargas, and Todd Frazier.

Courtesy of Getty Images

So how did I mange to hold onto Baez for the remainder of the season without tearing my hair out?  Here is the first reason in picture form.

Javier Baez home runs are not cheap, if he really hits it, it goes out of every park, every time, long story short Baez hits brobdingnagian bombs.  His average true distance on his homers was 405 ft.  That was 15th longest according to ESPN's home run tracker, in between Corey Dickerson and Jose Bautista.

So maybe there is something we can learn from the old folks at BrooksBaseball before I wrap this thing up.  The first thing I learned is that in their "hitter at a glance page" someone can be referred to as having "a disastrously high likelihood to swing and miss."  Which isn't good for Javier, but it exploded off the page once I looked at him.

The second thing I noticed was a small piece of glimmering hope that Baez fans can cling onto.

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

While he does whiff a lot in general, he isn't nearly as embarrassing when it comes to making contact against strikes versus balls.  So the notions of his problems being approach, and pitch recognition and not talent based, are totally aligning with this grid.

The next two plate discipline zone profiles first against hard pitches, second against off speed and breakers.

Hard pitches:

Off speed and breakers:

When you have such glaring weaknesses against different pitch types it indicates two things to me.

1)   other teams are going to exploit them

2)   there is a mechanical error that needs fixing

Success and failure in a repeatable manner indicates that regardless of how terrible the results were, at least Baez was able to create some sort of pattern against MLB pitchers despite being dominated.  So while it may be a long shot, he appears capable of repeatable outcomes, and if he can start taking more balls out of the zone, he may be able to raise his level of hitting up to a good Pedro Alvarez at 2B next season, which I would be totally fine with.

With that small high note, I don't think Baez is anything close to a guarantee to even be on the Cubs opening day this year.  ESPN projects him to have 466 AB, 62R, 22HR, 71RBI, 13 SB, .227 AVG, with those projections, I have him as a -.10 value player. Ouch.  But with that said, someone has to own Baez in every league.  With his ability, I would not be surprised if he hit 30HR with the same average as projected.  So next year, be patient, if Baez comes to you in a place where you feel comfortable, then it is time, for me that'll be after pick 200 in a 12 team league.  If you have a team that you think can handle his volatility, go for it, but remember this is as volatile of a commodity as you can come by in fantasy, so similar to when you buy a lotto ticket, don't whine when you lose.