Chicago Cubs: A fan’s take on Javier Baez and what he brings to the table

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 04: Javier Baez
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 04: Javier Baez /

Javier Baez is one of the Chicago Cubs’ most polarizing players. Now, whether that’s good or bad is open for interpretation. He is flashy, and he’s fun. And, believe it or not, he brings a lot of value to the Cubs, for multiple reasons. Oh, and he can hit the ball about four miles.

Javier Baez was Jim Hendry’s last first-round pick as the Cubs’ GM, back in 2011, ninth overall. Baez then tore through the Cubs minor league system, showing a lot of power, totaling 37 home runs in 2013, but also a lot of swing-and-miss, with elite defense. That has carried over to the major leagues. Lots of power, lots of swing and miss, with spotty elite defense at multiple positions.

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Baez is above-average at second and third base, all while still being a standout shortstop. In this day and age in baseball, if you can play multiple positions, you will find a home, especially when you possess that much power in the bat as well. Baez struggled to find a home his first couple seasons, spending half the season in 2014 in the major leagues, while spending most of 2015 in the minor leagues.

In 2016, Baez had somewhat of a breakout season, cutting down his strike out rate to just 24 percent, while posting a .273/.314/.423 slash-line, with fourteen home runs. Baez had a 2.7 WAR in 2016, for you WAR enthusiasts out there. On defense, Baez posted 16 defensive runs saved over three different positions. 11 at second base, only one DRS at third, and four at shortstop.

Ups and downs this season

This season, Baez has taken a bit of a step back.

Of course, many of the Cubs have taken a step back this year after winning the World Series in 2016. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as many of them are still young, guys just aren’t having career years like they all did. Anyway, Baez is down to 1.2 WAR, and there is also still a full two month’s worth of games yet. He’s already set a new career-high in home runs, and owns a .794 OPS entering play Saturday, which is well above league average.

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At this point in his career, it’s safe to say that Baez, just, plainly, is who he is. When he’s hot, he can carry a team for various amounts of time, see: last year’s NLDS/NLCS. But, when he’s not, he looks really, really bad. He’s a streaky hitter, with a lot of power, and the swing and miss will always be there. But, as long as he keeps putting them over the wall, and making ridiculous defensive plays, there will always be a spot for him on this roster.