For all the talk of the Cubs’ prospects infield depth, the shortstop position is down to just two legitimate MLB prospects. But when one of them is Javier Baez, the system could probably start no one at short throughout the rest of the minors and look fine.
Both Baez and Marco Hernandez have work to do before they find themselves on a 25-man roster, so let’s look at what each will need to do to count 2014 as a success.
2014 Goal: Improved Breaking Ball Recognition
The Javier Baez hype train is in maximum overdrive right now, as he’s smashed five home runs in just 42 plate appearances. None of them have been high-altitude, spring training cheapies, either.
Despite this, Javier Baez is going to start in AAA, and with good reason. Outside of the service time concerns, Baez has actual work to do in Iowa.
Anyone who has had the chance to see more than just the highlight-reel bombs off his bat has noticed that breaking balls have given Baez serious trouble. This is an issue many have written about over the past few years, but it’s still quite striking just how bad he can look against even OK breaking balls.
If Baez can be exploited like that, his ultimate ceiling at the plate looks a lot like an Alfonso Soriano type of hitter. That’s not bad, but if Baez can close those holes up just slightly his ceiling becomes almost nonexistent.
2014 Goal: Become More Consistent on Defense
I saw a lot of Marco Hernandez at Kane County last year, and I came away much less impressed with his glove than others have. At times, his hands looked quite slow, and he missed far more routine plays than a glove-first prospect should.
At other times, though, Hernandez would really flash the leather – he’d show off good range, quicker hands, and the ability to make very tough plays.
To continue moving up through the system, Hernandez is going to have to be that second player all the time – his bat will never carry him. If he can be a consistently good defender, though, the bat wont be bad enough to keep him out of the upper minors.
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