Javier Baez to play 2B and 3B in the spring

Javier Baez to play 2B and 3B in the spring
Baez's instincts and energy may be a better fit at 2B than 3B.

You know it's getting tantalizingly close when this front office starts talking about position changes for prospects.  They like to keep players at their "natural" positions for as long as possible -- especially when that position is a premium one like shortstop.

Today, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Javier Baez will play both 2B and 3B this spring but they seem to be leaning toward 2B because that would be an easier transition for him.

I did see Baez play 3B in the AZ Fall League last year and he did struggle, but to be fair, he struggled at SS too, so that's probably not very meaningful.

I like the idea of Baez at 2B because he is such an energetic, instinctual player and the up-the-middle positions require more play-to-play involvement than 3B.

There is also the obvious issue of a lack of offensive production from Cubs current 2B, Darwin Barney.  Even with his usual great defense, Barney's offense has siphoned much of his overall value.  He's barely above replacement level this season even with another Gold Glove quality season at 2B.

You've seen me argue on behalf of not replacing Barney with Logan Watkins.   I believe there is a substantial gap between how fans see Watkins' long term potential and the way the front office does.  I don't see a change being made because the potential for upgrade is too small to warrant displacing a well-respected veteran.

I have no such qualms about replacing Barney with Baez.  Baez is a pretty solid defensive SS and it's reasonable to assume he'll be as good or better at 2B.  It will be a downgrade, but there is no question that Baez can more than make up that value with offense.

The  move is also least disruptive as far as the Cubs current and projected lineups.  The Cubs have a 23 year old SS in Castro and they have depth at 3B, starting with Mike Olt, who I believe will get the first shot at the job.  Kris Bryant and Christian Villanueva aren't too far behind.

And if Baez produces at anything like we think he can, that does take some of the pressure off of production from Castro and whoever plays 3B (especially if it's Olt or Villanueva).  The Cubs would get corner player power from a position usually reserved for lesser hitters.

While Baez will play 2B and 3B this spring, he will start at SS in Iowa while Arismendy Alcantara and/or Logan Watkins presumably plays 2B.  The potential move of Baez to 2B does affect Alcantara, who himself is a highly regarded prospect, though not at the level of Baez.  Alcantara becomes depth at 2B and he's also athletic enough with a strong enough arm to play CF.  The guess is that if Watkins goes to AAA as well in 2014, he'll move around in preparation for a utility type role in the majors.

However, it shakes out, it's nice to see the Cubs making tough decisions they never had to consider just 3 years ago.

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  • fb_avatar

    "It will be a downgrade, but there is no question that Baez can more than make up that value with offense."

    Short term? Yes, but I see no reason why Baez can't be as good or better a second baseman than Barney over the long haul. The athletic skills are there, and if you have the instincts to play shortstop, you have the instincts to play second. To me, it's all about how good does he want to be.

    I actually like the idea of moving Baez to second as much or more than I like the idea of moving him to third. Either way, I see it as a win for the Cubs. He has the tools to be above average at either position.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It's possible. He is more athletic than Barney -- but Barney's defensive instincts are off the charts, in my opinion. I'd take anything close as long as that bats there.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It would be really, really difficult to be 'as good' as Barney. Dude has a GG and is likely to win another. Being better is essentially saying the Baez will in 3+ GG. Anything is possible, but you are talking about insane defensive productivity. I've heard people say he could 'stick' at SS, but never a mention of GG.

    I've never seen him play though.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Oh the potential is there. The physical skills are there. The drive and determination are there. I like Baez & Castro BOTH better at 2B than SS. So many of the errors have been throwing. Thats usually reduced when they move to 2B because they don't have to rush their throws as much.

    Now WILL he do it?... Have to wait and see.

    The thing with Baez is sort of like what Phillips enjoyed. The GG isn't supposed to involve offensive bias, but surely it does. Baez (assuming he reaches his potential) will likely be the starting 2B on the NL AS Roster for several years. If he does that, unless he's ridiculously sloppy at 2B, he'll likely win one or GG's by default.

  • Why did I think Baez showed more potential than Castro at SS?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I think it's still possible Baez can be the better SS, but I don't think it would be a significant upgrade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're probably right. Baez can maintain top value, wherever he plays. Castro, even if he is the old Castro, can not. I think the early announcements about Castro staying put could have as much to do with this FO's not wanting to put one more thing in his head to worry about. Plus let's face it, they just signed the guy to be a core piece for the next decade so....

    But even as a huge Baez fan, I have to admit that we will have similar defensive ability with either.

  • With all the talk about trading Castro and it primarily being dismissed because it is bad judgement to trade a guy when his value is at its lowest, how about doing the opposite and trading a guy when his perceived value is at its highest.

    And by that I mean Junior Lake. I would be curious to see what his value is in the open market. Although he is tremendously athletic he doesn't have a position at this point and his OBP will never be what the FO would like to see. If he could bring back additional arms or some long term piece that fits the FO mold, I would be curious if Theo and Jed would make that move.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Fair question on Lake, and I generally agree you don't sell low. But I think the rest of the league sees Lake as more of a super-sub than a first division starter. And I think the FO sees it that way too. He can help us, but I don't think he's a critical piece. He wouldn't bring alot back in trade, IMO.

    Now, if we decided to trade Alcantara....that would bring back a potential starting pitcher

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Lake is going to be a good reserve OF. He has the tools to be good in all 3 spots. And if he does end up putting it all together down the road he would profile as a good CF and maybe even a decent corner guy.

    I'd prefer we keep Alcantara as a super sub. All the talk about Lake filling that role always glosses over the fact that Lake is a terrible IFer. Alcantara profiles much better in that he can actually handle a 2B and even SS in an emergency, and he does possess the arm and athleticism to play 3B/OF in the same way Lake does.

    Another option would be to go with a Alcantara/Lake platoon in CF until Almora is ready. I would prefer to see that than to run a guy like Szczur out there, at least there would be a chance for plus production.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That and the other thing to keep in mind about Lake - other than the fact that he can likely cover 3B/2B and all three OF spots adequately on defense -

    He's going to be quite cheap to keep on the staff for several years and could likely fill a "DeRosa" like role on teams for the next couple of years. Will never likely be as disciplined a hitter as was DeRosa in his prime - but still brings a lot to the table.

    Most really good teams have a guy or two that fits that kind of bill.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Many scouts are still not sold on Lake, so they may dismiss those numbers as small sample, but I'm pretty sure an old school scouting team would be intrigued.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he still has to put up similar numbers for all of 2014 for teams to want to part with anything of value for him. His tools are very intriguing. But he is so far from being a finished product.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    That's a good point. I can see any potential trade partner valuing Junior's potential as part of a package.

  • Nice problem to have. Where to best play our top prospect.
    Also other top prospects who might be able to move to
    another positions. It's been a long time coming for so many
    top prospects in our system.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's also nice to have players with that kind of athleticism and instincts that makes them flexible enough to switch positions.

  • Hopefully this same "tough choice to have" issue will arise in 2-3 years with the drafting of Trea Turner :) Good times if these are the decisions to be made on a routine basis.

  • Olt can't hit his weight. Why is he front runner for 3rd base?

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    In reply to HankSauer rules:

    His potential for OBP, power, and plus defense, probably.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Valbuena has displayed more than "potential."

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HankSauer rules:

    More than potential for what, exactly? He barely "hits his weight", if that's your gripe on Olt. I like Valbuena a lot as a LH infielder off the bench. Pretty good OBP, solid D, and a little pop, but none of those tools live up to Olt's ceiling. Time to see what they have there. I'm sure if Olt can't hit .200 in ST, he probably won't stick, but it should be his job to lose.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Yeah I definitely agree Matt. Just like you can't call Lake a great ball player from one good season you also can't write off Olt as a teribble ball player from one bad season. I hope he gets every chance to start at 3rd and hopefully he has a strong spring training.

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    I think the Cubs are prepared to give him a mulligan. If he hits like the Mike Olt that he was for most of his minor league career, he'll be more than fine.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    sounds like Brett Jackson to me.

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    I think if a team made a habit of giving up on talented players after one season (especially when there is no cost to keeping them), I'd be willing to bet that team would be one of the worst in baseball.

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    In reply to HankSauer rules:

    Olt certainly hit his weight in 2012, he raked in AA. Last year was either that vision/concussion problem, or Olt not being able to advance. We'll find out which.

    He will get the first shot for a few reasons. First, he'll be 25, so he's at a point where he'll probably make it or not. Second, Christian Villanueva needs to be at 3B in Iowa starting next year; he gets forgotten sometimes, but he is a pretty good prospect coming off a decent age 22 year at AA. Bryant will likely open 3B in AA. Finally, the alternatives are not good; it's basically roll out Donnie Valbuena again, or hand the job to Olt. Signing a free agent would be a bad use of money.

    If Olt doesn't hit, then Villanueva, Baez, or Bryant will fill 3B long term, depending on how it shakes out. We'll lose a few more games next year in a seasons where it probably won't matter.

    If Olt DOES hit, then we have a "good" problem; we will have near ML-ready depth to trade at a position where the rest of the league is VERY thin.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That sounds reasonable.

  • fb_avatar

    Next year at this time, our infield could be:

    1B: Rizzo
    2B: Baez
    SS: Castro
    3B: Bryant

    Yup. I'm ready.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    That can be a menacing infield on offense -- and not too bad on D either.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So nobody else thinks Bryant is a stretch at 3B? He looks like a 1B to me. I know he wants to play third and the FO is looking at him for corner outfield, but I look at him and think 1B.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Oneear:

    As far as I know, the consensus is that, if he can't stay at 3B, he should make an above average corner outfielder. Yes, he's huge, but he's pretty athletic for a guy his size and has a strong arm.

    If the FO thought he'd have to transition to 1B, I don't think they would have drafted him.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    It'd be great if he could play third, don't get me wrong, I'd like to see it; but as well as he hit this summer, his fielding percentage was 935. Has anyone who has seen him play think he is one season in the minors away from playing major league third? I haven't actually watch a whole game of his.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I had assumed given his size that he wouldn't stick there long term. But when I saw him in Daytona (granted only one game), the dude's athleticism jumps out at you. He was very smooth and showed nice range, footwork, and displayed that cannon arm a couple of times. His ultimate position will likely come down to organizational need as much as anything else. i.e., Baez.

    OT, kind of cool to know that I'm i na very small group that got see him and VogelBOMB homer in the same game....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I also saw Brant at Daytona -- three games at the end of the season. He plays really smooth, with crisp, clothesline throws to first. I would say he also displayed good instincts, charging balls, not backing up.

    That said, if one of the other 3B prospects works out those long legs will cover a lot of ground in the outfield.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    He's pretty athletic. I think that not only does he have a shot to stick at 3B, I think he'd make an above average OF'er. Body, athleticism similar to Jayson Werth.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    He reminds me a of Pat Burrell and Troy Glaus. Big time college numbers, top of the draft, 6'5 ish athletic infielders. You could throw Braun in there too but he's not quite as big. I think he can get to the big leagues a a third baseman. I'll put the line at 4 1/2 years as an everyday big league third baseman and take the under. Bryant may be a little more athletic than those guys and will definitely play a much better OF than Burrell. Hopefully the bat does end up on par with those guys. That would be a success with a #2 pick.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I yearn.

    I really want to start enjoying Cubs games again. its sad that I enjoyed watching the Blackhawks play a preseason game last night about 10x more than I enjoyed watching the Cubs lately.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    That's not sad, the Blackhawks are great! So much young talent and consistent veterans.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    It's been a long time since a Cubs team has had that kind of offensive IF. Add in Castillo at C - and that makes for a real good core.

  • Exciting news! He's definitely close. The first blue chipper to make it to the show is going to have enormous pressure as being a savior, and if anyone can handle that, Baez can. He's got the confidence & he's got the skills. I'm not so worried about positions. They can always change after making the majors. I would love to see Alcantara force his way in there somehow. The first wave is coming soon though. With some internal improvement, minor tweaking, & a big move or two, this team could be around .500 midseason when Baez might be ready for the promotion.

    I'm a little confused on the offseason plans for Javy though. He's out of the fall league, are the shutting him down completely until the spring?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    He definitely has the confidence to handle the jump. The only thing I worry about Baez is him trying to do too much. That happened to him early at Daytona and Tennessee --but he does seem to settle down and get back to his usual self.

    They are shutting him down simply because he's physically and mentally fatigued after what was easily the longest season in his life. And the way Baez plays, you know he left it all on the table by the end of the year.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Now, if we can get 1 or 2 top end pitchers to go with these kids........

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Tanaka & one of the inconsistent starters taking a step forward?

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    One thing on Baez, I absolutely see him staying in Iowa through April, and probably into July, at least. Those are the key dates for FA and Super-Two eligibility. Unless he totally destroys the PCL, he'll be moved up conservatively for these reasons.

    In fact, my money would be on Baez spending most of next year in the minors

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That wouldn't surprise me. It will depend in part on circumstance, but I think you are probably correct on this.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Im thinking likely he,ll be up after the all-star break. If he lit up the southern league, What might he do in the hitters paradise the PCL is?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He will indeed be put on the Mike Trout/Wil Myers plan. Except the Cubs don't figure to be battling for playoff contention so their decision to keep Javy down won't cost them a playoff spot like the Angels and potentially the Rays this year.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I see him coming up in mid July as well assuming he is performing well. That would give him close to 400 PA's at AAA and allow him to get his feet wet at the Pro level so he is ready to go come April of 2016.

    And I still think we might see Bryant come September of next year.

  • Why am I concerned about our best prospect being on the 'blindside' of a double play pivot? He does tend to 'work up' opponents.

  • In reply to djriz:

    interesting point. My biggest concern is that slightly greater risk for injury as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John... I'm with djriz on this one, although I'm certain EH&Co are aware of the risks. Those instincts you spoke of with Barney keep him out of harm's way. I hope, whatever is done with Baez, that's taken into account.

    In the FWIW dept... I too think Bryant will be up late next year - assuming all else is equal.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Agreed on Bryant. I think he has a chance to make it next year as well.

  • The nice part about having Baez replace Barney is that even if Javy does not immediately put up monster numbers, it's almost guaranteed that he'll still be a substantial offensive upgrade at 2B. And since he's "only" replacing Barney, might there be less pressure on him to be The Man right away?

    That said, I feel really bad for Barney. Seems like he's a great gu

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Nondorf:

    Darwin Barney will still be able to carve out a 10-year career for himself as a UT guy. He's a good SS, and has the arm for 3B. He has outstanding defensive instincts and prep, and is a plus in the clubhouse.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed. There's always room on sombody's roster for a moderately priced, defensively minded UT-IF. Especially if he can get the BA back up closer to 0.250 most years.

    For example - How long has Ronny Cedeño been kicking around the league? Or David Eckstein?

  • Does this mean Alcantara is going to be dangled as trade bait this off season?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    It's possible, but since Baez is slated for SS at Iowa, my assumption is that Alcantara will stick around to play 2B until everything goes down. No rush to trade him yet.

  • I did think it was odd that Baez was going to the AFL again. It had been a really long year for him. Any chances Olt replaces him in the AFL? It would be nice to see him make up for some lost time.

  • I'm not really concerned about where Baez and Bryant play. It is their bats that will make or break them. What position they play might be affected by who else proves worthy (Soler, Almora, Alcantara etc.). I think they are athletic enough to play several different positions as trades and injuries may make necessary. I just wish they were all ready next year.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    It is all connected with these guys, but yeah Baez and Bryant are primarily going to be in the lineup for their bats, though I think neither will embarrass on defense. I'd also mention Olt, who I know is sort of forgotten, but if he takes 3rd and hangs on to it, then that could affect Bryant's ultimate position.

  • fb_avatar

    Is it bad that my biggest concern of moving Baez to 2b is Alcantara? His speed/power combo for 2b is great value. I think his best value is at 2b and I've really grown to be enamored by the idea of him at 2b. I don't think Olt is the answer, if Bryant can move to OF then Baez at 3b seems the best team option. I think Villanueva is not as high on my list as Alcantara, so he becomes the trade bait.

  • In reply to Denvil Farley:

    I think those things have yet to play out and I like Alcantara too. I think he can play OF if necessary but you'd like to keep him in the IF because he has legitimate skills there (unlike Lake who relied more on athleticism than instincts or refined skills). I think the Cubs are still buying some time with Baez moving back to SS at Iowa. It gives them more time to let things play out.

  • I am just happy we can have both Baez and Castro in the line up. I do wonder who is a better defensive player at SS? I don't think Bryant will be up till mid summer if that. Cubs took there time with Baez you gotta believe they would with Bryant.

    I would like to see Alacantra stick around for cf, but he is young and if he proves he is knocking on the door to MLB he isn't gonna want to be a super sub.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    He has no choice in the matter for about 6 yrs. Cubs can convert him to C ,if they like

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    The cubs have control of him for six more years? You can't tell me if he isn't happy being a back up the kid won't want to be traded. If Baez works out at second and Alacantra is ready the cubs would trade him for something and let him grow into a solid second basemen.

  • Since Theo has been on the record as saying the Cubs need and covet "impact players" in the organization- and they obviously look to Baez at becoming that type of talent- I'd like to share what I found in researching the players fitting that criteria. As a guideline I used a fangraphs threshold of 3.5 WAR for a season in determining how many impact players teams had and how they were acquired by their organizations. Playoff teams typically had 4-6 players that exceeded 3.5 WAR and out of the 413 players that qualified from 2009 to present, 58% were a team's own draft picks, 19% were acquired via trade (of which most were prospects when acquired), and 23% in free agency (including those signing minor league FA contracts, like Robbie Cano or Puig). So when Theo says that acquiring free agents isn't the manner he'd prefer to build the Cubs talent base, his statements largely match what's happening in the marketplace... roughly speaking 5 impact players should consist of three home-grown prospects, one player/prospect acquired via trade, and a free agent. Now when Theo took over in 2011, the Cubs had ten players that had ever achieved 3.5 WAR in a season and problem was the majority were being paid for that production level but in severe decline (i.e., Kerry Wood, Z, Pena, Sori, Doug Davis). Fast forward to September 2013 and we now have only 3 that have had that kind of season- Ryan Sweeney, Scott Baker, and EJax. None of those players can be counted on to put up that kind of season at this point, and if the goal is to have eight position players and five starting pitchers with the capability of doing so Wood, Shark, Castillo, Castro, Lake, and Rizzo show signs of an impact year. And contenders typically have 4 or 5 players that are perennial impact players- right now the Cubs have none and only Castillo appears to have the potential of being one. Getting a guy who can explode for a 6-8 WAR season is huge in winning a WS, and Baez, Bryant, Edwards, and maybe Soler appear to have that pedigree. So I'm glad the Cubs are thinking ahead with Baez at 2nd and hope our player development hits high gear, because we're a long way from being a contender when you consider how much the organization lacks proven major league impact talent.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Paulson, regardless of detractions, this was nice research and very interesting.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Thanks Quasi- looking at the performance of the Cubs 2003 & 2008 teams is rather sobering when you compare those players WAR to what we have now, as well as the OBP numbers. Not hard to see why we can't even win 70 games with the current roster.

  • WAR stat is over rated and doesn't prove much.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    What a convincing and well thought out argument. Care to back up your claims with something better, or is that the extent of your existence... piss on someone else's comments without a rational explanation because you're you.

  • Easy little fellow. It is a pretty easy statement that you must not understand. It is a over rated stat and doesn't mean much. Wins Above Replacement. There are plenty of other stats that I would rank as more important then WAR. So enjoy your piss.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Then name which stats they are and how they correlate to a teams' success, big boy. Quite impressive that you could even comprehend what WAR stood for, given your inflammatory, trolling drivel.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    I am glad I was able to teach you what WAR stands for. I would guess Wins and Losses are a pretty important stat for one. There are many more important stats that determine a players worth or effectiveness to a club. Lets use this as an example, or I could draw you a picture if that would be more helpful to you. But they say that Wellington has a high WAR and how much has that helps the Cubs success as u claim it is correlated? But on flip side Wellington is tied for the most errors by a catcher in the majors.

  • What a great thread today! As the thought of Baez and other top prospects getting to the show draw closer to becoming a reality, these discussions simultaneously fuel the anticipation and, at the same time, sate our hunger for it to happen. Gosh, I love Cubs Den!

  • At the same time? Now I know he's good.

  • It could be an interesting infield if Rizzo comes back full throttle in 2014. I don't question Baez at second and Bryant at third but both Castro and Rizzo had off years. I want to see both of them have a better 2014. If that happens you have a definite dynamite infield.

  • So if Bryant can't stick at 3B, then Baez would move to 3B, and the infield might look like:

    Rizzo 1B/LH
    Alcantara 2B/SH
    Baez 3B/RH
    Castro SS/RH
    - Olt 3B-OF/RH

    Bryant LF/RH
    Almora CF/RH
    Soler RF/RH

    Eloy Jimenez RF/RH
    Villanueva 3B/RH
    Candelario 3B/SH

    Wilton Castillo C/RH

    That is four RH bats in the OF. I would be nice if Jackson found his groove. Out of all of these prospects there are only 2 potential LH bats in a lineup. And that is with Alcantara in the lineup. Someone is going to go for a LH bat. And the FO is smarter than me, so they have looked at this 1000 times.

  • I'd be much more focused in Olt @ 3B right now. I think people here , who don't follow prospects on a league-wide basis, don't realize what Olt's potential is. He is the best defender of any of the 3B candidates in system with 25-30 HR potential. I'm sure Epstoyer will be thrilled if they're moving Bryant to RF next summer.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Yes Carl, me too! That would be a best case scenario. But it still leaves a potential future lineup of 1 left-hand bat! One out of eight in the lineup, being Rizzo! Someone has to go, or there have to be other inter-changeable parts to add in. My point is, in a best case scenario, with Alcantara as a switch-hitter, there are only 2 LH bats against RH pitching.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    That's a good point about lineup balance but I have a feeling that there will be a trade or significant FA signing at some point to bring an impact LH bat to the OF. My point is more that Olt possesses a lot of things that they like( good D , great makeup, good approach at the plate). He is one of "their kind of guys".

  • John do you think the spring positional battle may come down to Olt vs. Barney? With Valbuena sliding over vs. Righties if Olt is recovered?

    Do you see AA playing SS in Iowa if they like Baez at 2nd?

    How about Shark and BJax for Skaggs and Eaton?

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    One of the reasons for moving AA to 2nd as I recall was AA throwing error rate at SS so that would have to be remedied.

  • BJax is a potential Rule 5 candidate, no trade value there. I think the Cubs would be interested in both players on the ARI side. It'll be interesting what effect Shark's brutal 2nd half has had on his trade value, if they decide to listen on him.

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