Before the Chicago Cubs picked up their first winning record for the month of April this season, a handful of top prospects made their debut midway through the 2014 campaign, setting the tone for this season.
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Guys like Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Tsuyoshi Wada, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez and Javier Baez are a few names out of the 10 prospects who were called up to the show for the first time in their young careers. In the National League, the Cubs were tied with the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals when it came to big league debuts in 2014 with 10 a piece according to the Baseball Almanac.
Entering Cactus League play at the beginning of the year, the organization and its fans were buzzing after the recent off-season brought in not only a seasoned skipper in Joe Maddon, but veterans who were surely able to help this young team reach the next level.
With Soler locking up a spot in the outfield and Hendricks performing well enough to making the Opening Night rotation, Javier Baez‘s chances of making the roster slowly decreased as his strikeouts were still an issue. Despite flashing power every once in awhile, Baez managed to strike out 95 times in 213 at-bats while clubbing nine home runs, 20 RBI, six doubles and a weak .169/.227/.324.
He was expected to work on this issue over the Winter and even spent time with Chicago Cubs hitting coach John Mallee in his native country of Puerto Rico to tweak some mechanics. Prior to Cactus League 2015, Javier was no stranger to early major league baseball as he was invited three years in a row.
His breakout performance during camp came in 2013 where he recorded 14 hits, four home runs, 10 RBI, two doubles but struck out 12 times while slashing .298/.313/.596 and a .908 OPS. His on-base percentage and batting average dropped a year later, wrapping up camp with five home runs, five RBI, 17 strikeouts while and a batting line of .264/.278/.604 and .882 OPS.
As time went on, Javier’s struggles at the plate began to increase which was a concern for Maddon, Jed Hoyer, and Cubs’ president Theo Epstein who opted to start him off with the Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2015 campaign. But before Baez could return to the field to get his things in order, his little sister Noely passed away at the age of 21-years-old.
This surely hit Baez hard, who had a very close relationship with his younger sister who was diagnosed with spina bifida when she was born. Javier and his family moved to the United States when he was a teenager to seek better health care for his sister, starting in North Carolina then down south to Jacksonville, Florida so he could play year-round baseball.
Now according to the Chicago Tribune, Baez returned to the Iowa Cubs last night after spending an extra week in Arizona trying to get back into baseball shape. Javier finished 1-for-6 at the plate with one double and three strikeouts as the I-Cubs fell to the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 13 innings by the score of 4-2.
He even grounded out to former Cub Darwin Barney – a former Gold Glove winner that was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
It’s great to see him back with the organization, but it will be even better when or if he’s able to make those adjustments in the batters box with the big league Cubs competing in the N.L. Central.