Cubs' Javier Baez making adjustments to stay ahead of the curve

Cubs' Javier Baez making adjustments to stay ahead of the curve
August 18, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Javier Baez is entrenched as the Cubs' top prospect in almost every ranking, but the power-hitting shortstop wasn't always such a "sure thing." (That is, if you can even call a prospect a sure thing.)

There were a lot of question marks surrounding the 20-year-old slugger to start the season, with concerns about his aggressiveness at the plate and strikeout issues.

Baez still isn't perfect in either aspect of his game, but he's made some adjustments that have allowed him to succeed at each level through the Cubs' minor-league system.

[RELATED: Sveum applauds Baez's progression]

"He went from striking out a lot and maybe some at-bats to seeing three or four pitches and swinging and getting himself out, whereas now, he's making the pitcher earn the strikeout or the out," Double-A Tennessee manager Buddy Bailey said in a recent interview with Mick Gillispie of Smokies on the Radio.

"He's been a lot more disciplined and his strike zone knowledge is getting a lot better. When you have the bat potential that he has and you're getting better pitches to hit, the numbers are going to go up."

Baez, rated by MLB.com and Baseball America as the 16th best prospect in the game prior to the season, may have moved up a level from High-A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee, but he hasn't missed a beat in his development.

[MORE: Cubs prospect Baez continues power surge]

In fact, he's actually been better at the more advanced level.

Baez's OPS in 39 games at Double-A (.989) is over 100 points more than it was in 76 games at Daytona (.873). He's improved his walk rate at every level along the way, but has seen a significant jump in Tennessee (9.1 percent) from his time in Daytona (6.2 percent).

The strikeouts are still there (129 in 115 games in 2013), but teams will have no problem with that from a guy with a .569 slugging percentage and 66 extra-base hits (31 homers, 31 doubles, four triples).

"I think his potential is there," Bailey said. "But what it comes down to is so many players are labeled prospects, or they're really gifted or they're always the best one. When they meet their match, they realize they have to make adjustments, too, to stay among the best there is."

[RELATED: Baez hit a "majestic, soaring blast" Thursday night]

Confidence plays a huge role in an athlete's mindset and while Bailey doesn't want to see Baez change anything mentally, he believes a prospect should not let his ego get too big until he's established in the big leagues.

"The biggest thing in development is when you have really good players, their head cannot get bigger than their heart," Bailey said.