Chicago Cubs: All-Star starter? Maybe not, but Javy Báez is an MVP candidate

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(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Starting in the All-Star Game appears unlikely for Javier Báez, but a run at National League MVP is not out of the question for the Chicago Cubs stud.

In May, I wrote about Javier Báez playing well enough to warrant representing the Chicago Cubs in the All-Star Game. That now appears unlikely. Báez is making a case to receive an even bigger accolade, though: National League MVP.

If that sounded crazy, it really shouldn’t. Major League Baseball named Báez National League Player of the Week Monday for his stellar play of late. While the honor is nice, last week is really just a microcosm for Báez’s entire 2018 season to-date.

Career year

Báez is in the midst of a career season for the Chicago Cubs, hitting .290 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 80 games. In fact, entering Monday night, he ranks third in MLB in RBI – pacing the Senior Circuit.

While those numbers are all impressive, Báez’s slash line is where one can really see improvement in his game. His current batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging would be career highs.

Of course, Báez’s .326 on-base percentage has a ton of room for improvement, as it ranks last among Cubs “regulars.” The fact that it has increased from .295 on May 26 is worth noting, though.

Best player or most valuable? How about both?

As odd as it sounds, the MVP award tends to go to the “best” player rather than the most valuable. Báez has arguably been both for the Cubs, especially when considering the struggles of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Rizzo’s early-season struggles have been well-documented. He has hit better as of late (.158 in April, .303 in May, .270 in June). Unfortunately for the Cubs, Bryant landed on the disabled list June 26 after hitting “just” .267 for the month.

Essentially, the Cubs have not had a healthy and successful “Bryzzo” much this season. Báez has more than picked up the slack offensively. What he has done defensively has been just as important, however.

Future Gold Glove winner

Báez’s elite and versatile defense has always benefited the Cubs. Just last season, he took over shortstop duties full-time after Addison Russell went on the disabled list in August.

While he has not taken over third base duties full-time, his impact there defensively has been clear in Bryant’s absence.

Báez leads the Cubs in runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging. The team can move his elite defense around the diamond without it missing a beat.

When a former MVP in Bryant went down, Báez more than stepped up to help fill the void. How much more valuable can a player get than Javy Báez has been for the Cubs?

Next: Caratini continues to rake with Iowa

Many things can change between now and the end of the 2018 regular season. As things currently stand, though, it would be foolish not to consider Báez for National League MVP.

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