On MLB.com today, a list of the Top 10 shortstop prospects in all of baseball was released. Coming in at number three was the Cubs very own Javier Baez, whom the North Siders selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Baez has been working his way through the various levels of Rookie and A level ball during his short time as a pro, displaying his ability to hit for average along the way. The young shortstop also began to flash signs of the power he possesses, collecting 16 home runs between Peoria and Daytona this past year.
The Jacksonville, Florida area high school product’s bat projects better than his glove at this point, although Baez is not to be considered a defensive liability. With that same negative label being placed on fellow Cubs prospect Josh Vitters over the last few years, combined with All Star Starlin Castro figuring to be a shortstop fixture at Wrigley Field for the next few years, Baez may find his chance to crack into the Majors with the Cubs at third base instead. Baez has the strong arm and good hands that would project well at the hot corner.
While all the hype has been around what Theo Epstein and Company has been doing to revamp the Cubs subpar farm system the former Red Sox GM inherited, it should be noted that Baez was a selection made under the Jim Hendry era. Many of you may recall that once Hendry was fired, word was that the long time Cubs GM had been conducting business as usual, including the draft, while already knowing his ill fate.
There is still sometime between now and Baez’s projected Major League arrival date, during which his stock could just as well dip as it can shoot up towards his potential. But the promising note should be that he already ranks ahead of the Tampa Bay top shortstop prospect Hak Ju Lee, a name Cubs fans will remember as part of the package deal sent to the Rays in exchange for current Cubs top of the rotation starter Matt Garza. While Lee’s defensive wizardry places his glove skills ahead of Baez, the South Korean’s inability to produce extra base power as of yet is what is keeping him from making his Major League splash. This is an item of note that I have brought up on Cubbies Crib in the past, along with the opinion that Hendry overpaid for a starting pitcher that the Cubs have not necessarily needed over the past couple of bad seasons. However, the silver lining is that the Cubs did deal from positions of strength (catcher and shortstop) in hindsight, with the potential to dangle Garza for a prospect or two between now and the July 2013 trade deadline.
By next off season, with the 2012 draftees having a year of pro ball under their belt and the June 2013 amateur draft completed under the direction of Epstein, the appearance of Cubs prospects on these types of lists figures to become a regular occurrence.