The Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez has taken an unlikely path to stardom. Once the poster boy for the Cubs farm system, his power was only outdone by his strikeouts. Now he’s an invaluable piece to this team, and that’s without a guaranteed position.
Back on August 8 of 2014, Chicago Cubs rookie Javier Baez joined the team and homered in the 12th to give the Cubs a lead against the Colorado Rockies. We expected big things from Baez, but that’s not exactly how they worked out then. Baez struggled to finish up that season and didn’t break camp with the Cubs last year. But skipper Joe Maddon has always been on his side.
"“But he’s going to make an impact, possibly in the near future, definitely in the future. I am happy that he’s here. He’s a really talented baseball player.”"
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Baez lost his sister last season, then had an injury setback after breaking a finger while sliding headfirst into second base. After striking out 95 times in 229 plate appearances to finish the 2014 season, this wasn’t what he needed to get off on the right foot.
The Cubs finally called Baez up for the last 28 games of the 2015 season. After moving the struggling Starlin Castro to second base and handing over the keys to Addison Russell at short, there was no “open” spot for Baez. But that didn’t matter.
Baez filled in wherever Maddon needed him, providing the stellar defense that had made him well known in the Cubs’ system. And those strikeouts? Those were down to as he worked to be a better hitter. His best moment of the 2015 season may have been his three-run home run in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals against–current teammate John Lackey.
Almost the guy, till Zobrist arrived
This season many thought that Baez was the heir apparent at second base. Castro was traded, then Ben Zobrist was then brought in. Again, Baez didn’t have a place to call “home”. And yet here we are, the evening before Game 2 of the NLDS and he’s become one of the most crucial pieces to this Cubs team. Last night showed that once again.
The best part about all of that is that Baez was considering laying down a bunt. With all that power, he simply was thinking of trying to get something started. “I was thinking about bunting,’’ he confessed in the aftermath of the Cubs’ 1-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
Thank goodness the Giants were playing in trying to prevent exactly that. So Baez did what he’s been so good at as a Cub. He hit it hard. He may have been a little premature on the celebration,though. That Chicago wind made the home run a lot closer than we all thought. In the end, his solo shot helped win Game 1 of the NLDS for the Cubs.
He’s impressed us with his defense. He’s been clutch with the bat (Mother’s Day walk-off), and has become a humble young man after high expectations weren’t realized. But that’s the best part about the Javier Baez story. It isn’t over. And those expectations seem to be growing again.