No player has had more words typed about him this season that Javy Baez, at least on the Cubs. he's been a beacon of light at times when the season has dragged, and of course there's never a lack of action around him to describe. There are some who would tell you there's also controversy following him at times, but those are just crusty old people who are physically incapable of fun. Baez has been the Cubs MVP, and he just might be the most entertaining player in the game.
What's funny is how sure most of us were that he would never be here.
It's a long time ago now, but when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer came aboard, it was only a matter of minutes before everyone started speculating on Baez's future. He was Jim Hendry's last first-round draft pick, and while Theo and Jed were always to thoughtful and analytical to just discard a player simply because he was picked by the last guy, the questions were valid. Javy was clearly not in the mold of what we were told the new regime wanted. He didn't take pitches, he was impulsive, his future position was unclear (and yes, when Javy was in the minors there were tons of doubts he could actually play short every day. Not that he does now, but you get the idea).
As he rose through the system those questions didn't go away, because Javy still had the same problems. That first foray into the majors didn't dispel anything either, and there were some who thought it was merely putting him in the shop window. His 40% K-rate assured he fell through said shop window.
What was so hard to see, and what make Javy such a great story, is that what he has to do to be a productive player, and now a star, is so hard. He has to hit around .300 and he has to hit for a lot of power for a middle infielder to make it work. Remember, until this season Javy really only had been an average offensive player overall, despite the explosions and fireworks. It's something of a high-wire act, which we now know he specializes in.
So for a GM and evaluators to look at a player in the minors, see what his skills are and are going to be, and think yeah, he can do something that's pretty unique in the game, either takes a ton of foresight or a ton of balls, or both. How do you project a player to never walk but hit .300 and slug over .500 simply because he hits the ball so hard? How do you see what is an erratic and error-prone fielder in the minors is going to become a defensive weapon at three positions (and more if needed)?
I think one of the things that excites me most about Javy is that he's going to be a verb for some from now on. Whenever a team has a player that has similar skills, and fans and media alike ask how is this player going to become a productive major leaguer, some will say, "He'll have to Baez it." It'll mean that he'll have to hit for a ton of power and average if he's not going to have the on-base skills of others, while pitching in the side parts of the game like defense and base-running. He'll have to do everything, basically. He'll have to Baez it.
I don't know if this will be the norm for Javy. The nature of his game and his stats and what makes him an All-Star today are so fragile there will be months and probably seasons where he falls off that wire. Maybe they will be more than the ones where he doesn't. I can't say. It's a lot to ask someone to do it this way. But then again, there are so few players as talented as Javy that he might just be able to do it consistently for the next 10 years. You don't want to put that on him, but then there were plenty who thought he could never do this, and certainly never do it here.
We're all very lucky that he did.
Filed under: Uncategorized