The Cubs could soon have a very good problem, one that should make the other New York team rather envious … too many players and not enough positions on the field.
Javier Baez is applying the adjustments at Triple-A Iowa and producing at the plate. While the Cubs are not in a rush to call him up, Baez could force the Cubs to shift the infield once he is ready.
Jed Hoyer discussed the progress Baez is making with Iowa on the Kap & Haugh Show.
“Javy [Javier Baez] is playing well. We really like every report we get from him at Iowa. I do think we want him to sort of lock in those changes, really work hard there,” Hoyer said.
“I keep on reading, Javy Baez Watch and stuff like that. Certainly he is down there and he’s playing well, but let’s get him on a roll and get him locked in. There is going to be an injury or something that is going to happen eventually that if he’s playing well he will certainly be a great option for us. But I don’t want to rush it right now because I do feel like it’s important, given what happened at the end of last year, that he really gets on a nice roll.”
Baez is hitting .296/.375/.423 with Iowa and recently told the Des Moines Register he feels really good at the plate, the best he has felt since he was in Double-A. Baez has three doubles and two home runs for a .798 OPS. And in 19 games, Baez has walked six times with 20 strikeouts.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have publicly stated the team has discussed various scenarios that would accommodate all three shortstops (Starlin Castro, Addison Russell and Javier Baez) and Kris Bryant on the field and in the starting lineup.
Even with the improvement Kris Bryant has made defensively at third base, most think he will eventually move to a corner outfield spot, likely left field. With Bryant in the outfield and Anthony Rizzo at first base, the Cubs would have shortstop, second base and third base for Castro, Russell and Baez.
Addison Russell is considered the best defensive shortstop of the three and that he will be the Cubs’ shortstop in the near future. The Cubs have said Castro is the team’s shortstop for this season, but the front office and coaching staff have not discussed their plans publicly for Castro beyond this year. Some think Castro could move to second base and some see Castro as a better fit at third base.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs have discussed moving Castro off shortstop this season and moving Bryant to left field. The Cubs have “no immediate plans” to play Baez at third base at Iowa according to the Sun-Times, despite what Ken Rosenthal reported. Rosenthal said that Baez could be an option for the Cubs at third base in order to get his bat in the lineup. And at the same time, inserting Javier Baez at third base and moving Kris Bryant to left field would create the least amount of in-season change while the Cubs are focused on winning games.
Gordon Wittenmyer included in his report that Starlin Castro is willing to do what the Cubs want and if that means changing positions, he is fine with moving but he would prefer second base and “wants no part of third.” Wittenmyer talked to Addison Russell and he is open to playing third, a position he played in high school.
Joe Maddon thinks Baez can make any defense better and that was one of the reasons the Cubs’ skipper pushed for him to make the team out of Spring Training. Maddon told the beat writers Wednesday, “From Javy’s perspective, the biggest thing he has to do is stay ready.”
The Cubs know the defense must improve. It would seem, if the front office is contemplating moving players from the position they are currently receiving a majority of their playing time, those changes should be made sooner rather than later. But according to the Sun-Times, “the Cubs don’t seem to feel an urgent need to shuffle the infield deck yet.”
For as forward thinking as Joe Maddon is, the Cubs manager could be as old school as they come. Maddon knows the importance of defense and knows what a bad defense can ultimately mean to a team … watching games in October, not playing in them.
- Full Report from the Sun-Times
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Full Report from MLB.com
- Full Report from the Tribune