Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis at MLB.com kicked off their annual rankings today with the top 10 shortstop prospects. Unsurprisingly, Boston's uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts led the way. Bogaerts, you may remember, made his major league debut last season and starred for the Red Sox in the postseason, hitting .296/.412/.481.
Much more surprising is that the Cubs' own Javier Baez slots in at #2. Mid-season last year, Baez was considered the fourth best shortstop prospect in the game, behind Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Houston's Carlos Correa. His offensive explosion in the second half carried him past both of them. (Correa is #3 and Lindor #4.) The site has this to say about Baez:
Baez has lived up to his lofty expectations since the Cubs selected him eighth overall in 2011. [Baez was actually selected 9th overall.] He reached Double-A Tennessee two years later as a 20-year old and his 75 extra-base hits and 111 RBI led the Minor Leagues.
Baez generates incredible bat speed, resulting in big power. He also has the ability to hit for average if he is able to develop more plate discipline. But he is a good bad ball hitter and often finds a way to get his bat on the ball in spite of his aggressiveness.
Baez isn't as advanced defensively. His average speed begets solid range and he has a good arm, but he still commits too many errors. Some scouts feel he is destined for a move to third or second base, which be eased by Starlin Castro's presence in Chicago. No matter where he plays, Baez's bat has the ability to make him a star.
The site ranks Baez as having a 70 future power tool and a 60 future hit tool -- unbelievable production from a shortstop should he reach his ceiling. They also point out that he was one of just six minor league players to have a 20-20 season last year.
At Cubs Den, we've been going on the assumption that Baez will begin the 2014 season in Iowa, having dominated AA last season. That should be a very good experience for him, as AAA pitchers will work to exploit his aggressiveness and force him to adjust. Assuming he can make the adjustment as swiftly as he's made all the others, that puts him on track to be called up the majors mid-to-late next summer. However, this could be delayed because of service time concerns.
The rest of the positional Top 10s will be rolled out a day at a time, leading up to the Top 100 reveal on January 23. Baez seems to be in excellent position to be in the Top 5 when that list is released. Other Top 10 lists of interest to Cubs fans will come on Wednesday (RHP, C.J. Edwards), Friday (1B, Dan Vogelbach), Tuesday, January 21st (3B, Kris Bryant and Mike Olt), and Wednesday, January 22nd (OF, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler).
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