ST. LOUIS – “The Bachelor” got here before “The Javier Baez Show.”
Baez isn’t walking through that door, but Juan Pablo Galavis mingled with Cubs players and coaches inside Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, and on the field during batting practice, before Monday’s unscripted 17-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs are their own reality show – remember board member Todd Ricketts on “Undercover Boss?” – but they won’t make Baez the star yet.
Baez Watch hasn’t spiked the ratings. With the Cubs almost 25 percent through their season, there’s no media outrage, no forcing the issue about a position change for an elite shortstop, or trying to calculate the exact service-time date for a promotion to Wrigley Field.
Even with a lineup that had scored four runs combined over the weekend at Turner Field, getting swept by the Atlanta Braves and losing seven of its last eight games.
For all the hype in spring training, Baseball America’s No. 5 overall prospect began Monday hitting .151 with 38 strikeouts in 93 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. Baez went out and delivered the walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning of a 2-1 victory over Nashville.
[WATCH - Javier Baez's walk-off in Triple-A]
“He’s in Triple-A right now and he’s got to develop his major-league skills,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “And then once he gets here – at some point – he’s got to show that he should be here. And, hopefully, it happens somewhere down the road.”
This is not ripping Baez, who started slower last season at advanced Class-A Daytona and still wound up hitting 20 of his 37 homers in only 54 games at Double-A Tennessee, becoming the organization’s minor league player of the year. He’s only 21 years old, very young for the Pacific Coast League and dealing with unrealistic expectations.
“There are a lot of players that start off slow and then they catch on,” Renteria said. “It could be also the consequence of getting now into Triple-A, pitchers seeing him, seeing what he can do, starting to try to work him a little bit, which is really important for his development.
“Now he’s got to grow some patience and I think those are actually – believe it or not – positive things for us right now at this point.
“Patience is one of the things he’s going to have to have. Once people see him put the barrel on the ball, they’re (probably not going to) want to give him anything to hit. So he’s got to draw them into the web, so to speak.”
All along, Cubs executives have promised they won’t rush Baez, who still rocketed through the system after getting drafted ninth overall in 2011 out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla.
“He’s going to face guys that have been up and down in the big leagues,” Renteria said. “(They) have an idea, read swings, know the tendencies the hitter might have, how anxious they might get, what they want to do. (They’ll) take advantage of it, which is why he’s got to understand what they’re doing and make an adjustment. It’s a game within the game when the at-bat starts.”
Still, Theo Epstein’s front office wouldn’t have complained if Baez left no doubts and put up the monster numbers Anthony Rizzo generated during a three-month internship at Iowa in 2012. Rizzo slumped and got in a funk last season, showing that you can’t automatically pencil in 30 homers and 100 RBI for unproven players.
So while Kris Bryant is on a hot streak for Tennessee, becoming the Southern League’s hitter of the week, and Baez is ice cold, the Cubs are going to have to ride it all out in the long rebuilding process.
“It’s all still a learning experience once they get here,” Renteria said, “as we can tell from a lot of the guys we have now.”