Chicago Cubs Gradeout: A look at an emotional year for Javier Baez


B. .289 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .325 OBP, .408 SLG. INF. Chicago Cubs. JAVIER BAEZ

We’ve done a lot of gradeouts here at Cubbie’s Crib, but none of the stories told so far can give a better definition of “emotional rollercoaster” than Javier Baez’s year.

Baez started the year coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign (we gave him a C+ last year) and was surrounded by questions during spring training. Will Joe Maddon send him to Triple-A? Can he rebound? Is he already a bust? Should Theo trade him for pitching?

I’m not Baez, but you’ve got to think it’s hard to ignore noise that loud. 

Javy must have heard something because he only hit one home run in 17 games with a .182/.237/.236 slash line in spring training. He hit .264/.278/.604 with five home runs in 18 games the spring before.

Something was up with Baez, so he was sent to Triple-A with hope that he would be a star prospect dwindling.

Then for Baez, the unthinkable happened: his little sister Noely passed away at the age of 21 from spina bifida.

The Iowa Cubs placed Baez on the bereavement list for two weeks which delayed his season debut until April 30.

Then just over a month later, Baez suffered another setback in the form of a left hand injury sliding into second base. At the time of the injury, Baez had eight home runs with 29 RBIs and a .314 batting average. Baez was out for seven weeks with injury.

It’s safe to say that this season tested Javy. Questions kept swirling and no one had any answers, not even Baez. 

Eventually though after weeks of rehab, Baez made his return to the field for the Iowa Cubs and continued to produce.

After 70 games for the year at Iowa, Baez hit 13 home runs and had a .324/.385/.527 slash line. While some critics were still out there, his consistent play in the field and at the plate seemingly answered the questions raised after a disastrous spring training and 2014 MLB debut.

Eventually, Baez got the call back to the majors on September 1 just in time to help the Chicago Cubs make their playoff push.

His 28 games with the major league club can be best described as sporadic, and improved. Coming off the bench most of the time, Baez looked to have a different feel at the plate. He was prioritizing high percentage hits rather than swinging for the fences. And it showed in his end of the year stats, Baez only had one home run while improving his major league batting average to .289. That’s a more than .100 point improvement in batting average.

Possibly his biggest moment came in Game 4 of the NLDS. Baez, batting ninth, came up to the plate with the Cubs down 2-1. The Cardinals starter Lackey was already tagged with one run that inning and Baez had runners at second and third.

On the first pitch Baez took a low and away fastball the opposite way and deposited into the right-center bleachers. A moment we all remember and periodically replay in our head. It was Baez’s first and hopefully not last postseason home run.

Overall, Baez improved. Coming off a disastrous 2014 season, this was all Cubs fans could’ve asked for. If Baez wasn’t cast off to the bench thanks to all of the other talent the Cubs had in front of him, he most likely would’ve scored better than just a “B”.

But for the amount Javy contributed, I think a “B” fits just right. Now let’s see what he can do with a possible full year at the major league level in 2016.

Next: Chicago Cubs Gradeout: Kyle Hendricks shows he's for real