Why Baez won’t see Chicago in 2013


Mar 7, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop

Javier Baez

(70) jogs off the field during the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Cubs’ top prospect Javier Baez has been on a tear of late.

The 20-year old shortstop clubbed two game-winning home runs in as many nights last week for Class AA Tennessee, increasing his total to 14 home runs in 38 games for the Smokies. He began the year with Class A-Advanced Daytona, and between the two levels, Baez is hitting .281 with 31 home runs and 94 runs batted in throughout 114 games.

Yesterday, Chicago’s Starlin Castro grabbed headlines throughout the city when a fifth-inning blunder cost starter Travis Wood a run against St. Louis. Since then, social media has been alight with reasons why Castro should be demoted, and Baez called up to take his place immediately.

As enticing as it sounds at first, it will never happen.

The shortstop has committed 41 errors so far this season, and is averaging  more than a strikeout per game, with 127 total so far this year. With the Cubs’ only battle being whether or not the club will finish in the cellar yet again in the National League Central, there is no reason to rush the tenth-best prospect in all of Major League Baseball, according to MLB.com’s Midseason Prospect Watch.

“He’s not in the plans right now,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said when asked whether or not Baez could see ‘The Show’ soon, “but I don’t count anyone out because we’ve all seen it happen.” (Dan McGrath/Sun Times Media)

Castro has struggled throughout the entire 2013 campaign, posting a .244 average throughout 121 games – a full 40 points below his career average.  He has already matched his strikeout season from a year ago (101), despite playing in 40 games fewer.  Defensively, his fielding percentage is a career-best (.970), but his mental focus has been criticized on several occasions this year.

Aug 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) waits for his cap and glove after being stranded on the bases during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Cubs 12-1. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

“There are only so many meetings, so many things you can say,” Sveum said after Saturday’s blunder. “When you’ve played this much baseball, you have to do it yourself.”

Despite brushing off a question of whether or not Castro would appear in the lineup on Sunday after the game Saturday, the 23-year old is still in the lineup for the series finale against the Cardinals.

Baez, who has continuously raked against minor league pitchers this year no doubt offers an intriguing proposition for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who continue to build for the future while looking to remain competitive on the field in 2013. Bring up the star prospect, fill the stands and create a sense of urgency for Castro, who at times has acted with a sense of entitlement on the field this year.

Despite the temptation, this won’t happen. People continuously point to the impact that players like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have had early in their careers for their respective clubs, but the truth is – you can’t expect any prospect to play at that level right out of the chute. It’s not something that happens regularly, and it definitely should not be the expectation moving forward for Baez.

That being said, it has become abundantly clear that Baez is a very special type of prospect. The type that can alter the direction of an entire franchise. But that, in my mind, comes with a disclaimer – all in good time.

For the duration of the 2013 campaign, expect to see some combination of Castro and Darwin Barney up the middle for Chicago, with Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy filling valuable roles, as well. Epstein and Hoyer are unlikely to shock Castro into a tougher mental physique with a demotion to Triple-A Iowa, and are equally as unlikely to promote Baez to the major league level.

When should we expect to see the slugging shortstop in Cubs’ pinstripes? That time could come as early as 2014.