Jed Hoyer says Javier Baez’s promotion to Class AA is no reflection on Starlin Castro
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 6, 2013 8:40PM
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro takes the throw as the Pirates’ Starling Marte steals second base Saturday. Castro’s struggles this season have fueled speculation about prospect Javier Baez, who has been promoted to Class AA Tennessee. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: August 8, 2013 7:14AM
The Cubs promoted shortstop prospect Javier Baez from Class A Daytona to Class AA Tennessee this weekend ‘‘because we thought it was time,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. Baez proceeded to reward that confidence by hitting a home run Saturday in his first at-bat for the Smokies.
Baez is slightly ahead of his projected timetable, which is always good news for an organization, even though it is sure to raise more questions about the future of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
Baez, 20, earned a promotion to Tennessee after what Hoyer called ‘‘a monster month at the plate’’ in June, when he hit .300 (27-for-90) with a Florida State League-high nine home runs and 28 RBI. He is striking out less and walking more.
‘‘The walk total is important to us,’’ Hoyer said before the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 at Wrigley Field. ‘‘He had a pretty good last four weeks. I think there are still some unfocused at-bats at times. That’s part of the maturity process, but I think he did a good job with the strike zone at [Daytona].
‘‘The defense has been better. It’s similar to Castro: He’s got to eliminate some careless errors. He’s got great hands. He can certainly play the position. He’s run the bases well. He’s obviously had a monster month at the plate. He’s played better defense. He’s been a good teammate. It’s time for a new challenge for Javy, and I think he’ll respond well to it.’’
Baez, who was the Cubs’ first pick in the 2011 draft, was leading the Florida State League with 17 homers. Hoyer said Baez is somewhat ahead of projections, but he added it is ‘‘highly unlikely’’ Baez will get a major-league call-up in September. Tennessee is still a long way from the majors, and Hoyer has said the Cubs still believe in the struggling Castro.
Hoyer has talked about watching another promising shortstop go through struggles while he was the GM of the San Diego Padres. Everth Cabrera was 22 — a year younger than Castro is now — when he made his major-league debut in 2009. Cabrera hit .255 with 25 stolen bases in 103 games that season, but he struggled the next two seasons and spent virtually all of 2011 in the minors.
Last season, Cabrera played in 115 games for the Padres and led the National League with 44 steals. This season, he leads the league with 31 steals and is hitting .300.
Castro’s credentials — he already has been a two-time All-Star and has an eight-year, $60.5 million contract that runs through 2019 — go way beyond Cabrera’s. His struggles at the plate and in the field this season are real, but Hoyer has said he and president Theo Epstein still see the talent and potential in Castro they saw when they arrived two years ago.
‘‘There’s still the growing and needing to get better in areas,’’ said manager Dale Sveum, who often has been frustrated with Castro. ‘‘The concentration is better. But as I’ve said before, when you get to this level and have played at this level a fourth year, it’s up to the player.’’