Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/16/13

The CCO’s coverage of the minor league season concludes today with the fourth and final post-season award, the Minor League Player of the Year.

Unlike some years, this season there was one player in the Cubs’ system that stood out above the rest. Javier Baez was clearly the top player in an organization that showed a lot of improvement on and off the field.

All position players that began their season in April with Kane County, Daytona, Tennessee, or Iowa were considered but only players remaining in the minors for the entire minor league season were eligible for the award. Last week, Kris Bryant, along with pitchers James Pugliese, Corbin Hoffner, and Michael Hamann were named Short-Season Player and Pitchers of the Year while Kyle Hendricks was selected as the CCO’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

The CCO Minor League Player of the Year – Javier Baez, SS

The attention of many of the Cubs Faithful has turned to the minor leagues as Javy-Mania is about to hit the North Side of Chicago. Media members who couldn’t name a minor league player if their free press box meal depended on it are now jumping on the Baez bandwagon, and with good reason. The 20-year old shortstop hit a combined .282/.341/.578/.920 with 37 home runs, 111 RBI, and 20 stolen bases between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee this past season. His RBI total and 75 extra basehits led all minor league players this season.

Javier Baez was the ninth player selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. A protracted contract negotiation had Baez signing minutes before the deadline. Baez appeared in three games for the AZL Cubs in the rookie league and two for Boise, hitting a combined .278/.278/.389 with two double and an RBI. In his first full professional season, Baez spent the early part of 2012 in extended spring training with an unspecified injury. He then joined Single-A Peoria were he batted .333/.383/.596 with 10 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs, 46 RBI and 24 stolen bases in 57 games. Promoted to Daytona in the beginning of August 2012, Baez hit only .188/.244/.400 with three doubles, one triple, four homers and 13 RBI the rest of the way.

It was back to Daytona to start the 2013 season, and Baez used his second tour of the Florida State League to his advantage. Baez went .274/.338/.535 with 19 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs and 57 RBI in 78 games. Promoted to Tennessee, Baez homered in his first at bat, which started the hype machine. Baez went on to hit .294/.346/.638/.983 with 15 doubles, 20 home runs and 54 RBI in 54 games against Southern League pitching, as the Smokies won the second half division title and went to the playoffs.

Despite all of his offensive potential, flaws still remain in his game. Baez has a career fielding percentage of only .934 and has committed 67 errors in 209 games. While some feel he improved after his promotion to Tennessee, it was only to a .948 percentage in a little more than a third of the season. Over the past year, there have been several stories from the front office wanting to see Baez play other positions, only to be retracted later. Baez is now headed to the 2013 Arizona Fall League where management has said they would like to see him play both second and third base.

Javier Baez also has somewhat of a checkered past, with several ugly incidents in extended spring training, A-ball, and the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He also had to leave the AFL early after breaking his thumb, with some reports saying it occurred following some horseplay with teammates. His penchant for glaring at umpires has led to him being ejected in several games. However, Baez may have turned a corner this past year, as he was seen as trying to be a peacemaker when teammate Jorge Soler lost control earlier this season.

Although Javier Baez put up some rather gaudy offensive numbers, there was some competition for this honor from several of his teammates. Outfielder John Andreoli led the system for the second straight year with 40 stolen bases and his combined .305 batting average paced all Cubs’ prospects in hitting. When injuries weakened Tennessee early in the season, outfielder Rubi Silva stepped up his game. Silva established a new career-high in home runs with 15 and drove in 52 runs while swiping 13 bases. Silva put together a .284/.310/.483 line and his .284 batting average was good enough for sixth in the Southern League. Infielder Arismendy Alcantara (.271/.352/.451) was all over the Southern League offensive leader board. Alcantara was second with 36 doubles, third with 31 stolen bases, seventh with 69 RBI, tied for tenth with 15 home runs, and fourteenth with a .271 batting average. Third baseman Christian Villanueva (.261/.317/.469) was also among the Southern League’s offensive leaders. Villanueva led the league with 41 doubles, tied for fifth with 19 home runs and finished fifth in the league with 72 RBI. Villanueva was also named the league’s top defensive third baseman.

This concludes our regular season coverage of the Chicago Cubs’ Minor League system for 2013. Thank you all once again for turning to the CCO for all of your minor league news. I’ll be back with some feature articles, along with full off-season coverage beginning with the Arizona Fall League. Until then, this is Tom U., signing off.

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  • paulcatanese

    As long as he is not like Puig from the Dodgers, I think he will be fine, and believe it or not Lake is a better all around player than Puig also. I think both will survive at the big league level with minimum incidents, and Lake has not had any at all. Both should be good additions.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I do not believe it.

    • Theboardrider

      Lake better all around than Puig? I don’t see it. Puig is a better hitter, better hitter for power and plays better defense and has a better arm. The only place that I don’t see Puig as obviously better is running the bases, but many would probably say he is.

      Care to support your comment? I do trust your judgment Paul, and you’ve seen a lot of baseball so convince me why you are right…

      • paulcatanese

        Attitude is number one on the list. Puig feels the world is his. Better Arm? Puig throws wherever he wants to as well as Lake, difference here is Lake is learning to play the outfield and Puig is an outfielder. The constant anger that Puig displays on everything that does not go his way is apparent, Lake takes it as a learning process.
        When a manager pulls a player for not being in the best interest of the game as Puig was, that say’s volumes. The background of Puig is still in question, and Lake’s is not.
        If I had a team, I just would not want Puig on it, sooner or later teammates will get tired of his antics, if they haven’t already. He may be better than Lake on paper, but all around, Lake is the better player for the team.

        • Theboardrider

          I love it Paul! I’m with you. You think Lake is a starter and a guy that can bat .300 on the regular?

          • paulcatanese

            He can be a good player and hit close to .300, but until he learns the nuance’s of the outfield, will probably be platooned. As I had said before, if they turned Soriano around, I would think they could make Lake blossom as an outfielder.

        • 07GreyDigger

          While I hate players that are primadonnas, I can’t agree that Puig is an inferior player to Lake on talent alone. I think Lake is what the team thinks, a super sub kind of guy who can play around the diamond whereas Puig is probably a starting OF. The key to Puig is getting his head in the game, if the Dodgers can do that, look out!

          • paulcatanese

            Agree, not on talent alone. Puig’s head is the thing that will make or break him.

  • Banjowilly

    Thanks for all of your hard work, Tom U. I enjoyed reading your farm reports this season.

    • Theboardrider

      Absolutely Tom! ‘Til next year…

  • Tony_Hall

    There may have been players who came in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc, but there was no real competition, as Baez was clearly the best player in the Cubs system, and will have a good chance to be MiLB’s player of the year.

    What a great year for any minor league player, but especially a 20 year old. 20 year old’s who have years like this, end of having great careers.

    The saying goes all the way to the majors, hit and we will find a spot for you on the field. He can hit and is athletic enough to play all over the field, giving the Cubs many options on where to find a spot on the field for him. Miquel Cabrera and Albert Pujols have played multiple positions in their career, getting on the field is the 1st step.

  • Tony_Hall

    Great Season Tom! Thanks for all of your updates. I am looking forward to reading about the AFL.

    Enjoy your break.

    • TheWrongGuy

      I agree. THANKS TOM!

  • 07GreyDigger

    Thanks Tom for all the hard work you do! Looking forward to hearing how our guys do in the AFL offensively and at new positions.

  • paulcatanese

    Have agreed with all of the “up” comments Tom,and echo them, a great job.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Looking at external reports of Cubs farm system, no doubt Theo will be busy next July of clearing space on the roster for the younger guys……..Alcantara, Hendricks, Baez and a few others will be here by August 2014.

  • Tom U

    Arizona Phil has just posted a preliminary roster for the Fall Instructional League:

    As reported earlier by the CCO, Boise Hawk Jordan Hankins and Mark Malave are 2 of the 3 players converting to catcher. Daytona Cub Ben Carhart will be the third, with IF Giuseppe Papaccio also getting a look there.

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone at the CCO!

  • SuzyS

    Hey Tom, I want to echo the other posters in thanking you for an outstanding job this season…..You’ve put together a wonderful resource for any Cub’s fan trying to stay abreast of the minor leagues…The work you put into it is greatly…greatly appreciated…Thanks again.

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