Cubs minor-league notes: Javy Baez getting hot, Kris Bryant still hot
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter May 22, 2014 11:25PM
Top prospect Javy Baez would create a buzz and sell some tickets if he were to start the year with the Cubs. | AP
Updated: May 22, 2014 11:58PM
SAN DIEGO — Don’t look now, but Javy Baez suddenly is one of the hottest hitters in the Cubs’ organization — maybe even hot enough to start quieting some of fans’ fears about the top prospect’s slump.
And the Cubs’ No. 2-ranked prospect, Kris Bryant, leads the Southern League in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (he’s second in batting average).
But you’re not going to see Bryant in Chicago anytime soon — and maybe not at Class AAA Iowa anytime soon.
“For Bryant, he’s in his first pro season, and he’s trying to figure out how to get through a full season, playing every day, not playing three or four times a week,” said Cubs farm director Jaron Madison, who stopped by Petco Park on the way to his next assignment. “He still has a lot of things he needs to work on approach-wise. Defensively, he’s working his butt off.
“Everybody’s excited. He’s excited. But those guys understand it’s going to take some time. They still have things they need to work on.”
As for Baez, the kid shortstop with the vicious swing finally has turned the corner, adjusting to more mature pitchers with command of offspeed stuff and the savvy to know how to use it against an aggressive swinger.
“Some of our rovers have been in there working with him,” Madison said. “He’s just understanding how they’re going to pitch him. It’s just a maturity process for him because he’s young, he’s [highly touted] and people know he swings hard, so they’re going to try to throw him offspeed pitches and see if he can chase. He’s starting to learn to let those pitches go and get something to hit. It’ll start clicking for him now.”
Baez has almost as many hits during his current seven-game hitting streak (12) as he did all season before that (15). His 4-for-5 game for Iowa on Thursday (including two doubles and a homer) pushed his batting average over .200 for the first time this season.
During the streak, he’s hitting .429 with five doubles, three homers and six RBI.
“I think he’s going to be right around the corner now,” Madison said. “His defense is good. He’s starting to lock in at the plate. I think he’s starting to really buy into what he has to do as a hitter, and it’s all going to click pretty soon.”
Outfield prospect Jorge Soler, who suffered another hamstring injury (to the other one this time) last week, traveled Thursday to Arizona to rehab the injury at the Cubs’ training facility.
Soler has been sidelined by hamstring injuries three times since spring training after losing most of last year to a stress fracture in his shin. But Madison said he’s not concerned about injuries becoming a chronic problem.
“It’s still really early. He’s still young,” Madison said. “When he’s on the field, he’s been really good. We’ve got to find a way to keep him on the field, but he’s working his butt off to stay healthy.”
Top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards (shoulder soreness) has begun a light throwing program in Arizona, and Madison said the club is targeting a return to Class AA Tennessee near the All-Star break. Whether he finishes the season as a starter or reliever is being discussed, Madison said, but the plan remains that he’ll return to the rotation.
◆ Pitching prospect Pierce Johnson, who opened the season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, was pulled from his last start because of a “tweaked” calf. The club plans to “take it slow” with his rehab as a precaution, Madison said.