The Chicago Cubs are very fortunate to have multiple impact players in the prime of their careers all at once. It’s a big reason why they’re eyeing their third-straight division title.
Who is going to be “the guy” for the Chicago Cubs moving forward, though? At the beginning of this season, that question wouldn’t have even been worth asking. Kris Bryant would have been the obvious answer, with a modest case to be made for Anthony Rizzo.
The emergence of Javier Baez this season has changed that conversation. Baez has been, without a doubt, the Cubs’ most important player in 2018. At certain points throughout the year, Baez helped carry a somewhat stagnant Cubs offense.
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His bat hasn’t been the only standout aspect of his game, either. No one in the league lays down tags more masterfully than Baez. And he’s no slouch on the base paths, either. Countless times, we’ve seen him use swim moves to evade what would normally be routine tags.
Breakout or flash in the pan?
The question now becomes, “can he keep it up?” At just 25 years old, this is already Baez’s fifth year in the league. And though he’s never really had an entirely substandard year at the plate (with the exception of his short rookie season), he’s never come close to what he’s done this year.
To this point, he’s slashing .294/.328/.567 with 31 home runs, 102 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Make no mistake, these numbers put him in the NL MVP conversation. But he’s not likely to win it. There is a rather large pool of worthy candidates this season, and like it or not, Baez’s OBP is going to hold him back.
A .328 OBP may not jump out on the page, but it’s the best mark of Baez’s career by far. It’s not even close to an elite on-base percentage, but it is significant improvement, which is a great sign that he is finally developing.
His power numbers have continued to rise as well. He hit 14 homers in 2016, 23 in 2017, and now 31 this season with three weeks left to go.
It this Javy’s team now?
The bottom line is this: every part of Javy Baez’s stat line is elite, besides his OBP. But even that continues to improve ever so slightly. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for him to repeat this kind of season. But we said the exact same thing about Kris Bryant after his 2016 season and he ended up being just as good the following year.
Baez may not end up being as consistent as some others on Chicago’s roster, but his raw potential may actually exceed everyone else. It won’t be easy, but if he can stay on this trajectory, then he should be held in the same regard as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo moving forward.