Is top-prospect Javy Baez ready for his shot with Cubs?
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter February 17, 2014 9:04PM
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MESA, Ariz. — The first prospect due up for the Cubs in their homegrown rebuilding project is so close to a major-league job he wonders if he can see it from the Cubs’ new spring-training facility.
The Cubs repeatedly have said that Javy Baez will be their starting shortstop at Class AAA Iowa when the season opens. But if anyone among the Cubs’ so-called Big Four prospects can make the club out of spring, why not the guy ranked as high as No. 4 on recently released prospect lists?
“I might [be able to]; I might not,” Baez said upon his arrival to camp Monday. “I’m going to take it day by day and see what’s going on.”
Baez spoke softly and was modest in his answers. But when reminded of his big performance in his first big-league camp last year, he couldn’t suppress a smile. Would that be enough to get it done this year? “I’m not sure,” he said.
The fact is, the Cubs remain adamant about him starting at Iowa to work on the improvement they want to see in the field and, ideally, in cutting down on the strikeouts.
“He’s slated to start off in Triple-A. And that’s our approach in the spring,” manager Rick Renteria said.
But it’s going to be hard to contain the bat speed that gets compared to Gary Sheffield and that produced 37 homers, 111 RBI and combined .920 OPS in 130 games at high-A Daytona and AA Tennessee.
But what if he excels in the field this spring, looks good in cameos at second and third, and does anything like that .298 big-league spring last year that officially included four homers and a .908 OPS in 17 games — but a team-leading six homers if you count his big exhibition game against Japan’s World Baseball Classic team?
“I’m not going to speculate,” Renteria said.
Baez is sure of only one thing about this spring: “I’m ready to play.”