Mar 7, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstopJavier Baez
(70) leads off of first during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret that the Cubs offense in 2013 left something to be desired.
Despite hitting 172 home runs, which ranked second in the National League, the team’s offense tallied only 602 runs – a mark better than only two teams in all of Major League Baseball – the crosstown Chicago White Sox and the rebuilding Miami Marlins.
For this reason, MLB.com prospect expert Jonathan Mayo says the Cubs should transition top prospect Javier Baez to third base, rather than wait on him to develop defensively at shortstop – the position he has played in the system since he was drafted.
"Could he work to improve enough to remain a shortstop? It’s possible. But that leads to a second factor: getting his bat to the big leagues faster. If he stays at shortstop, how much more time will it take for him to be ready to man the position in Chicago? His bat, and it’s a special one, could be ready at some point this coming season. But learning to slow himself down defensively at a premium position enough to where he wouldn’t be a detriment? That could keep him in the Minors longer."
Baez is expected to reach Wrigley Field as early as this summer, and the Cubs are blatantly aware of the logjam they have on their hands on that side of the infield. Starlin Castro, who is under team control for the rest of this decade with a relatively team friendly contract. Kris Bryant, who was taken by the organization in the first round last year, has been playing third base, and Mike Olt is aiming to rebound this spring with the third base job in Chicago in his sights.
If Olt bounces back, someone is getting traded. That’s simple. But if Olt fails to regain his form from his days as a top prospect in the Texas Rangers system, Baez, according to Mayo, could shift to third and Bryant would then, in turn, move to the outfield. As Mayo points out, he played in college in the outfield, and the transition should be relatively smooth.
"I won’t worry about the Olt part of the equation unless he makes it an issue. Move Baez to third and move Bryant to right field. Bryant could have been a choice in this debate, as some scouts think he’s too big to stick in the infield. He played well in the outfield in college, so it’s not completely foreign to him. That way, the Cubs can get both big bats to Wrigley Field sooner rather than later."
Although it’s been simple to point the finger at lackluster pitching and a lack of stars in the pitching rotation, the Cubs’ most dire need is offense. The quickest answer? It’s already on its way – Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.