Cubs Preview and Thread: Frame by frame breakdown and analysis of Javier Baez's swing

Javier Baez was officially cut today but he went out in style.  He had Cubs nation buzzing after hitting 4 HRs in two days, including two moonshots and 3 HRs on 3 consecutive pitches.  Much is made of his bat speed, which is tremendous, and we tried to capture it in photos.  As you will see, capturing Baez in motion is extremely difficult and at times it resembles a Marcel Duchamp painting, so I've broken it down into 8 separate shots.  Notice the explosion with his hands and hip rotation, yet he keeps his head remarkably still and focused on the baseball.

(Scroll to the bottom to see pic-by-pic breakdown of Javier Baez's swing)

You'll get to watch him live today as he is playing SS and batting 2nd.

Here's today's lineup...

  1. David DeJesus, DH
  2. Javier Baez, SS
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Alfonso Soriano, LF
  5. Brent Lillibridge, CF
  6. Dave Sappelt, RF
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Christian Villanueva 3B
  9. Alberto Gonzalez, 2B

Starting pitcher:  Scott Baker

5 things to watch:

  • Javier Baez - If I have to give you a reason by now, you haven't been paying attention.  Catch him while you can he's officially been cut. Jorge Soler was sent down to high Class A Daytona earlier today and Baez is expected to join him soon. 3Bs Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, and catcher Rafael Lopez were also cut.
  • Scott Baker makes his debut.  Not expecting him to be in midseason form yet.  Right now we're looking to see him gradually build velo, command and stamina.
  • Brent Lillibridge gets the start in CF.  Dave Sappelt played well in CF yesterday, but Lillibridge may help fill that RH hitter void.
  • Anthony Rizzo missed out on the power parade yesterday.  I expect him to make up for it today.
  • The Cubs have a second game in Las Vegas.  Here is that lineup Carlos Villanueva gets the start.

And now, that Javier Baez swing...(Photo stills via a video taken by boysofspring.com.)

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Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Javier Baez

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  • fb_avatar

    Do you know where Villaneuva was assigned? AA I'm assuming?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Not official yet, but I do assume hell be at AA with Rafael Lopez. Vitters, of course, at AAA and Soler, Baez at high A Daytona.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Cool. Hoping for a breakout year from him. I really was impressed with his defense this spring. With even average offensive numbers, I'd like to see him at Wrigley.

    It's going to be really interesting to see what happens if Baez destroys high A this summer. Villaneuva, Alcantara, or Torreyes will have to sit or be demoted for him. Nice problem to have.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, AA, according to the transactions page on cubs.com.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Muito obrigado, Joao!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Por nada!

  • Junior Lake also cut.

  • Ian Stewart getting another MRI. Sveum saying he doesn't know if he has enough time to make team again.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Huge opportunity for Junior Lake when he comes back. Time to put the tools together.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes...no doubt. Interesting that Vitters is being sent down anyway. Cubs losing faith, it seems.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    While Javy Baez was turning the game into his own private fireworks display, Josh Vitters looked completely overmatched -- in spring training. I just don't see it. Which is a pity, because I held out hope for quite a while. If he's moved to first when Lake comes back, that's the proverbial nail in the coffin. Pity.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That Vitters swing was/is so picture perfect. You can see the flaws in Baez's swing but he makes up for it with all that quick-twitch ability. The hand speed, the rotation of his hips - it's just god-given talent.

    Vitters swing is fundamentally sound and that hand/eye coordination is excellent -- but for some reason it doesn't add up. Hes a good minor league hitter, not a great one, and now it seems he has more to prove than ever.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm definitely not giving up on him, and I've long been more bullish on him than many Cubs fans, but if I had to guess right now, I'd say he's projecting to be a tweener. Bat would play at a premium position, glove would not. Vice-versa for non-premiuim positions.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Agreed, Kyle.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Very true! This is an extreme bat wrap. But at least he brings the bat head around flattened on the backside (not tilted up over the top like 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock). Everything catches up to standards, connected at the hip, and extension to the ball and finish are fine. But that first part is something I wonder if he will have to change? Brett Jackson had a similar looking swing, but not as violent. I have never seen Baez check his swing. That would be curious. How does he react to good change-ups and sliders away? Baez is a pretty cocky kid it seems. Perhaps they will let him fail before saying anything. Then again, Gary Sheffield didn't fail did he?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Has anyone ever considered Vitters problems to be hes not mentally prepared? Having to adjust at every level seems to indicate he doesn't listen to coaching, etc. I can certainly understand a period of adjustment for anyone, but with Vitters its been entire seasons worth, And right now he just doesn't seem to be a likely big leaguer.

  • Thanks for the frame by frame breakdown John. The things that have always stood out to me with him was the full extension, and torque he generates. This breakdown clearly captures that. It's so easy and cliche to just say he has tremendous bat speed... Anyways, this shows why he generates the power he does vs a big dude like Bour.

    When he was in high school, with that metal bat; I swear you could hear it whistle when he swung.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Good stuff -- excellent point on generating power. Not always pure size that's important.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes, you know something about it I can see. Notice in frame #4 his hips are pulling the arms into the hitting zone. He has great torque using his lower body well. There were a couple of young Cubs that drove me crazy about this. One was named Hee-Seop Choi, and the other was Tyler Colvin. I felt like it robbed them of their power potential.

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    So, what happens if Ian Stewart starts the year on the DL, particularly given our lack of 40-man spots?

    I assume Vizcaino will start on 60-day to clear one spot for Lillibridge, but that will leave us with 5 ML Infielders to start the season....then what?

    Adding Maysonet would require a 40-man move.....which would mean to me either a) Garza also starts on 60-day DL, or b) Raley may be DFA'ed, but I don't think the Cubs want to do either of those

    The alternatives would be:

    --Logan Watkins: That's a big jump though
    --Steve Clevenger: Probably this is the choice, though who will catch at Iowa, besides JC Boscan?
    --Carry 5 IF, and bring another OF; even there, B-Jax is the most logical, but that's not really part of our plans

    Kind of an issue with Vitters hurt/inactive, and Lake hurt/a little young to be promoted. Lake had a good spring, but he needs some AAA seasoning first

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yep,... 3B is going to be more interesting than most of us would like to start out the season. I like Valbuena,... and think that he will hit better than last season as far as Avg. At least he is a good DF 3B, and knows how to take a pitch.

    But offensively - that would leave the Cubs with a bit of a negative at the hot corner. I would like to see Clevenger get the nod as he would bring back up potential at C, 3B, 1B and possibly 2B if they carry him. But he's probably not a full time player at any of those positions.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    if there was ever a year to have this problem, then better now as opposed to two years from now.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Good point.

  • Nice AB by Baez. Worked count to 3-1, got fooled on a change, then adapted and took the ball up the middle for a single on a full count. That was a big league approach.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Heart in my throat when he went head first into second though. Visions of a torn thumb ligament went through my head.

    Love the aggressiveness -- just wish he could save it for games that count.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah...good point. Looked like a bad call by the ump on leaving early. I think both the A's and the umpire were caught off guard.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He's destined to start in High A ball. He went to ST with every intention of making the team... every game matters to him... lol

  • I like Appel and Manaea an awful lot, but I don't like Scott Boras. Drafting and signing one of these 2 will probably require going over the cap slot for the 2nd pick and screwing up at least the next 10 rounds of the draft for the Cubs as far as drafting kids with a high ceiling. My favorite player for this draft is Clint Frazier because he is very similar to Javier Baez. If you watch video of his swing, you don't see the bat move thru the strike zone because his swing is lightening quick, just a God given skill, plus he puts the bat on the ball on a consistent basis. He was like a man among boys at the Under Armour game in Chicago last August, and just like Baez, he's athletic, has decent speed, cat like reflexes, good hands and fielding ability, with a rocket for an arm. If he wants big bucks above the slot allotment, then forget it, but then again, if he doesn't, the Astros will probably take him or Austin Meadows. Incidentally, the Astros 2nd pick last year, 18 year old, left handed pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. was a supplemental pick at the end of the first round and received 2.5 million for signing. He throws 100 mph and has a higher ceiling than any pitcher the Cubs drafted last year. The Astros signed their 1st pick Carlos Correa on the cheap and had plenty of money left for the rest of their draft picks. And btw, I think that Baez would make a great third baseman with his strong arm.

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    In reply to shalin:

    Isn't Baez represented by Boras, too?

    He's a pain in the ass, but its not impossible to deal with him. His more egregious actions seen largely dependent on egregious clients.

    Even Baez was claiming that he intended to go to college instead if signing. But everyone knew he wanted to play pro ball.
    Boras annoys me but his job is to get his clients paid and he does it well.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Cubs Sign Javier Baez
    By Ben Nicholson-Smith [August 15, 2011 at 11:05pm CST]
    The Cubs have signed ninth overall pick Javier Baez, according to the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter). He gets a $2.625MM bonus, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (on Twitter). Jet Sports Management represents the Florida high school shortstop.

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    In reply to shalin:

    Fair enough.

    Regardless, his agent played hardball (no pun intended) until he got signed for overslot money.

    Its not a tactic confined to Board alone.

  • Sappelt goes yard. He's coming around just in time.

  • In reply to Taft:

    He looked good yesterday. Maybe starting to get into a groove.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What is the Cubs pool money this year for the draft. I need to study this a little more. I assume the first round pick ends up with well over half of it?

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I don't think the slot values have been officially set for 2013, but based on 2012 numbers (the ratios should be the same, just adjusted upward by a few percent), the Cubs would have a pool of $9,822,500, second-highest in the league.

    The slot value for the No. 2 pick was $6.2 million last year. The Cubs might try to go a little under that (or they might not), but it's a pretty safe bet that the No. 2 overall pick will get at least half the bonus pool.

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    4-pitch walk for Castro. Only 1 of the pitches was even close, though.

  • Hey John, thank you for posting all the pics of Baez's swing....very nice. I also watched video of Baez's recent home runs, and, WOW! what an amazingly powerful, fast swing. I love his bat speed.

    Side note: Maybe it's just me, but I wish the Cubs would have signed Brennan Boesch when he was going through release waivers. I know he's a very, very streaky hitter, but he has tremendous power, hits singles up the middle and hits doubles down the lines, more often than the gaps. After watching several videos of his swing, even though he had a down year last year, he did show more patience in hitting more by situation. He also had his best year with hitting with runners in scoring position and RISP with 2 outs. His career splits vs. lefties are also pretty impressive (average and OBP), with better power against righties. I'd hoped that the Cubs would have used him as a 4th or 5th outfielder. I consider it a missed opportunity to have a natural lefty power bat off the bench, and spot start/fill in for any injuries. As it stands, the only real lefty power bat off the bench now is possibly Bogusevic. Anyway, I'm no scout, and he did pass through release waivers by all 30 teams. Still, seems to me that the 2.3 MIL salary for a year would have been a pretty low risk, from a financial stand point, plus 3 years of team control.

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    In reply to MikeWadle:

    On Boesch, he is a lousy defensive OF. He also doesn't fit the Cubs for alot of reasons, among them who will sit when he plays? He has a pronounced split vs. LHP, just like Scheirholz, so playing them both at the same time isn't really an option, unless you sit Soriano.

    In order to fit him on the roster, we would have had to clear a 40-man spot; who would we cut? And, unless we kept 6 OF to start the season, we would have had to send down Sappelt, leaving DeJesus or Hairston as the only CF. Ugh!

    These are all the reasons he wasn't a fit for us at all

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Boesch had the 3rd highest fielding percentage among AL right fielders last year. He can play against righties and lefties, with better avg/obp/slg against lefties, better pop against righties. His career split vs. LHP is actually better than his split against RHP. I'd have no problem with sending down Sappelt with Boesch's abilities against both LH and RH pitchers, and Lillibridge can fill in at CF as well.

    I think he would have been a great fit.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed them.

    I'm not a big fan of Boesch, and I don't think there is room for him with Soriano in LF and the Schierholtz/Hairston platoon in RF. I think they'll both outproduce Boesch.

  • Nice to see Rizzo starting a rally by going the other way against a LHP. Maybe it's small sample size, but he seems to have a better approach against them this year.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Agreed. Nice approach on that AB.

  • When Baez was drafted:

    Wilken said Baez has a strong arm and could play shortstop, third base, outfield or even catcher".

    "He projects anywhere his bat is going to take him,'' Wilken said. "We'll just have to let that take care of itself.''

  • The articles below were about Tim Saunders before last year's draft. As everybody knows, Tim had a great year in the lower minors. If he does real well at double AA this year, I think the Cubs have a wonderful problem, too many talented, young infielders, but the clock is ticking for Tim since he will be 23 in May. Another infielder who hasn't got much press is 22 year old ss Arismendy Alcantara who can hit, has good speed and can steal bases, and has a strong arm, but was injured most of last year and who I think is better major league prospect than Hak-Ju Lee.
    http://www.mariettatimes.com/page/content.detail/id/544652/Sports-Talk--Saunders-better-than-Correa.html?nav=5026
    http://www.cantonrep.com/college/x40874353/Alliance-grad-Tim-Saunders-taken-by-Cubs-in-32nd-round-of-MLB-draft?zc_p=1
    Here's an article about Saunders this spring:
    http://www.chicitysports.com/2013/03/03/timothy-saunders-one-of-the-cubs-best-prospects/

  • In reply to shalin:

    We like Alcantara a lot here. Needs to stay healthy and stay on the field, because when he is, he's a very exciting player to watch.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've seen alot of back-and-forth on who is the better prospect between Alcantara and Amaya. I'm actually not that sure either. What do you think, John?

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    That's a tough choice. Assuming they both end up at 2B, I'm tempted to go with Amaya even though I think Alcantara has the higher ceiling. I like his intellligence and instincts for the game and I think he has a better chance to maximize his talents. Also think he's a more natural hitter.

    That said, could end up being terribly wrong if Alcantara plays up to his potential.

  • In reply to shalin:

    We've also written about Saunders here quite a bit. I think he's an interesting player, but don't agree with the article that says he's one of the Cubs best prospects. Athletic player with a solid hit tool and great mental makeup, but he'll probably have to play middle infield to have a chance to be a starter, and there's a whole lot of guys ahead of him right now. I get the feeling he'll be a major league ballplayer though, most likely as a utility guy.

  • In reply to shalin:

    Alcantara has been very much an under-the-radar player. I also remember Saunders college coach saying the Cubs got the "steal of the draft" when the Cubs drafted him in the 32nd round. From what Ive seen, Saunders is a super-utility player in the making, Alcantara, though a solid prospect, will likely end up getting traded, even though he had a nice offensive year in 2011 at Peoria and was off to a good start in Daytona last year. We have somewhat of a surplus of Middle infielders.

  • John,

    Perhaps a bit off topic, but what prospects do you feel have done the most this spring to put themselves on the map? Baez and Soler were already there, but have there been 4 or 5 guys that have come in and raised everyone's expectations?

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Baez with a good day at the plate. Good approach, working counts, using all fields. Not as fun, but better for his development.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I think they've been impressed with Villanueva's defense and improved power, but he has a ways to go.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John, I really apprecaite your insights and observations. I was wondering about Villanueva as well. Was listening on WGN and heard Quirk talk about how high the Cubs are on him. Made me wonder if he might eventually become one of the building blocks that FO is always talking about.

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    In reply to supercapo:

    It's a big year for Villanueav at the plate; AA separates the men from the boys. Let's hope he steps up. Everyone says he is plus to plus-plus defender, so it's all about the bat

    If we ever had an infield of Villanueva, Castro, Barney, and Rizzo....that would be a VERY good one

  • In reply to supercapo:

    You're welcome! I'm sure Lake as made a good impression as well, but get the feeling Villaneuva might fit this team's philosophy better.

  • Drafting amateur baseball players is exciting, but can be frustrating. It's like a box a chocolates....ya just never know what ya gonna get. All the Cubs really need to do over the next 5 years is just keep picking the right ones! I think there were a lot of very good players in last year's first round draft. Here's two of them drafted 10th and 11th in the first round.
    David Dahl, drafted 10th by the Rockies: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=dahl--000dav
    Addison Russell, drafted 11th by the A's: http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=608365

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    Lefties continue to be kryptonite to Rizzo's Superman. Ugh.

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    LOVE the frame by frame breakdown of the HR swing.

    I especially like the focus on the ball. You can tell he's not just taking violent swings for the fences; he saw that one coming and knew where he was taking it.

    Its amazing as well how controlled his swing seems relative to the bat speed.

    Thanks for the analysis!

    Villanueva makes me very nervous. Slap-hitting, undersized third basemen with poor BAs in the minors aren't usually considered cornerstone pieces.
    As a utility guy, its good to see hr can play 3B.
    As a starter, I think he'll be overachieving if he gets to replacement level.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Thanks! Love how he keeps his head so still despite the big swng.

    I think Villanueva will be more than a slap hitter. Some scouts consider him to have an above average hit tool with average power. He's got some extra base pop and I think he can hit 12-15 HRs. Combine that with a batting average of around .275-.285 and a decent approach, great defense and you have yourself a legitimate starter -- though not a star.

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    Giffmo, didn't you hear DeShiaes and Jamie Quirk comparing Christian Villanueva to Vinnie Castilla??? I almost droped a load in my pants

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Defensively I can see it. Not nearly the same power, though

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    In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Hey, I don't pretend to be a scout and I hope I'm wrong. I don't WANT any of the prospects to fail. I'm holding onto hope for Jackson and I'm a Sczcur true believer. I just am having trouble being optimist about what Villanueva is bringing to the table.

    I'm still an Olt fan for the 3B dilemma, though I recognize that's still very very theoretical.
    I know Baez has the talent and arm to go to Third but I'm 100% in agreement with what John said in a recent article that Baez's hands and reflexes are too good to take out of the infield. Castro/Baez is a tandem great stuff is made of, I just hope there's an answer at third.
    (If not Olt, Rendon is blocked at third in Washington, maybe come trade deadline we have something they need! A guy can hope.)

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    I'm with you Giffmo..would love Olt as well...Villanueva is an interesting prospect nonetheless!!!

  • Just watched the replays of his Saturday home runs and he swings with some violence. Very impressive. I hope he can keep his swing short when the situation calls for it.

  • Yesterday was the first I've seen Baez live. You're not going to get many fastballs by him and he'll not get cheated up there. I know the "can't miss" label is asking for trouble, but I really don't see how this kid can. I like his swagger, too. He will not be intimidated at the plate or in the field.

    Also, from what I've read about him, I really like Watkins (no slight on Barney). He seems to be that fireplug type of player that will break the opponent's heart in some way or another. I project an infield of Rizzo, Watkins, Castro, and Baez. With Baez at 3rd, the gap between Castro and him gets pretty small.

  • Do u think if Castro was healthy this spring, we would of seen Baez at 3rd and 2nd a lot more? When would a organization approach a log jam like this. I know SS has the most value for him, but I'm starting to think he may be the piece trades for our future ace.

  • In reply to MyersTech:

    I think he would have played SS anyway. The Cubs are going to keep him at SS until he has to move.

    Generally guys who play SS can make the transition to any other position very quickly because they tend to be the best combo of athleticism and instincts on the field. If you see Baez playing a lot of 2nd or 3rd, it likely means the Cubs are planning to bring him up soon.

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    Both hands on the bat in the follow through? Walk Hriniak would be spinning in his grave...if he was dead.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Hah! That old Hriniak philosophy is generally discarded now even though it did help quite a few players.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    I believe a fella named Ted Williams once had a few somewhat less than complimentary things to say about Hriniaks coaching philosophy. One of the nicer ones was to call it "insect ball".

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