The Cubs got shut out in a rain-soaked evening in Pittsburgh last night, but that's really not that important. The wins and losses aren't nearly as important as the development of the organization. I know, you've heard that a lot and are sick of it. But it doesn't make it any less true. And speaking of development, the Pirates have a guy that they've developed playing third base for them.
That would be Pedro Alvarez, who was 3-11 with a double, a triple, and 5 K's in the four game series. Does that line look similar to someone we've gotten to know over the last two years? Yeah, it really looks like the kind of line Javier Baez might put up over the course of a few days. When you look from a distance, Baez and Alvarez are kind of similar players. Both have wicked power, strike out a lot, and play infield (Baez is a shortstop, but many believe he will end up at third).
When we look deeper, though, we see more specific similarities:
Alvarez was Baseball America's number 8 ranked prospect heading into his first season at AAA. He hit 46 home runs in 990 plate appearances in the minors, and struck out at a 24.6% rate. His minor league slash line was .278/.372/.516.
Baez was Baseball America's number 5 ranked prospect heading into his first season at AAA. He has hit 62 home runs in 1137 plate appearances (to date) in the minors, and struck out at a 25.9% rate. His minor league slash line is .274/.331/.536.
So, fair to compare them you say? I certainly think so. Now for the rub; Alvarez's major league numbers to date:
2115 plate appearances, .236/.308/.438, 29.6% K-rate, 97 home runs.
I'm guessing there are a ton of fans that would have their day ruined by seeing that kind of comparison. There is also probably a large segment of fans that would throw up resistance, pointing out that Baez is still only 21 and there is still time for development and change. Those people have a fair point, but the expectations placed on Baez have been enormous.
For this, I blame Jason Parks (in a good way, because he's awesome), who said: "Baez has the best bat speed I’ve seen since I started evaluating talent at the minor-league level, and it might be some of the best bat speed I’ve seen period. It’s violent—no doubt—and I’m not always sold that he can control the bat after he triggers. But when he unsheathes that weapon and it finds the ball, the cowhide screams in what I believe to both ecstasy and agony."
Not wanting to totally throw Parks under the bus for his high praise, I reached out to him on twitter to ask him if Cubs fans should be happy if Baez ends up turning into Pedro Alvarez as a shortstop. His response?
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) June 13, 2014
So what should we expect from Baez: Hall of Fame type numbers? While the potential for that kind of career may be there, I think we should start reigning it in immediately. Baez putting up Alvarez-type numbers (especially as a middle infielder, if he sticks there) would still be a huge success. He wouldn't be perfect, but I don't see anything in his track record that suggests he ever will be.
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