My very early impressions of Javier Baez after watching the 21-year-old rookie’s debut Tuesday night:
Baez has a big swing and that is both a compliment and a criticism at this point. Perhaps he was just amped up for his Major League debut — which would be understandable — but he swung a little too hard and chased way too many pitches out of the strike zone. That was the reason for his three strikeouts.
Still, Baez showed in the 12th inning what he can do when he makes contact — he rocketed a long home run to the opposite field for what proved to be the game-winner in the Cubs’ 6-5 win. The young man definitely has serious power and it’ll be a big benefit to Cubs having that kind of pop at a non-power position like second base.
The biggest thing Baez needs to do right now is learn to lay off the high fastball up and out of the strike zone. Sure, it looks enticing, but big league pitchers throw it up there for a reason. It’s tough to hit, and even when you do, the result is usually a pop up.
He’s always had a big swing, so I wouldn’t try to get him to change that now. He reminds me a little of Mike Piazza in that he has an upright hitting position and swings from the heels, and Piazza certainly was successful hitting that way. So right now, I’d let Baez simply focus on getting comfortable in the majors and adjusting to the quality of the pitching without worrying about making tweaks to his mechanics.
Obviously, I’d play him every day for the rest of the season, both to get him experience and to see what he can do. But I wouldn’t bat him in the No. 2 spot in the lineup again. That’s a spot better suited for a contact hitter who gets on base. I’d bat Baez sixth, a spot where he can drive in runs and where his strikeouts will be less likely to kill rallies.
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In case you missed it, here’s a replay of Baez’s game-winning homer Tuesday night against the Rockies:
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