Power surge down on the farm by SS Javier Baez
BY DAN MCGRATH For Sun-Times Media August 17, 2013 10:27PM
St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
Updated: September 19, 2013 10:18AM
If Starlin Castro persists with his maddening inconsistency, the Cubs might have an option in their midst. Top prospect Javier Baez is refuting the notion that he’s not in the plans for 2014.
Baez, 20, a shortstop from Jacksonville, Fla., hit his second game-winning home run in as many nights for Class AA Tennessee on Friday and has 14 homers in 38 games for the Smokies. Splitting time between Tennessee and advanced-A Daytona, Baez is hitting .281 with 31 homers and 94 RBI in 114 games.
He has committed 41 errors and struck out 127 times. His big-league readiness might be in question, but some of his tools are not.
“He has bat speed you only see once in a while, like Gary Sheffield,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s also making some adjustments you like to see. The reports say he’s more under control at the plate, laying off some stuff he can’t handle.”
Baez was the Cubs’ first-round draft pick in 2011. They’re being careful not to rush him, even if they move the enigmatic Castro away from shortstop, or to another team. But Baez could force the issue if he continues to maul minor-league pitching.
“He’s not in the plans right now,” Sveum said, “but I don’t count anyone out because we’ve all seen it happen.”
Donnie Murphy is hitting .324 in 11 games as the third member of a job share at third base, joining Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom. Sveum considers third base “one of our most productive positions,” with the threesome combining for 22 homers, 60 RBI and 50 extra-base hits despite a .228 average. “The defense we’ve got from all three of them has been a nice addition, too,” he said.
◆ Kris Bryant, top pick in this year’s draft, is off to a .353 start at Daytona. Corey Black, acquired from the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano, won his second consecutive start for the D-Cubs, striking out eight in five innings in a 5-1 victory over Brevard County.
◆ Sveum, on Soriano’s five-homer, 14-RBI, four-game power surge: “Awesome. Unbelievable.”