It was as if the major league season never happened on the North Side of Chicago this year. A nightmare that we all knew was coming, even if it was worse than we imagined. A throw-away year that was necessary to move the organization forward and rid itself of bad contracts, head cases and just let some of the overall stink air out of the field.
Last night, Javier Baez gave us a 440-foot reminder of why Cubs fans should be excited.
The ninth-overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Cubs, Baez went 2-for-4 with a double, three RBI and a monster home run in his second at-bat on opening night of the 2013 Arizona Fall League. The 19-year-old shortstop is continuing to impress during his first full professional season. Over 80 games split across two levels this year, he hit .294 with 13 doubles, six triples, 16 home runs, 46 RBI and stole 24 bases. He also showed much improved defense, to the point where most scouts believe he will be able to remain at the premium position at the next level.
His potential at the plate is what drew interest from nearly every scout in the game. Regarded as having one of the best bats in the 2011 draft, the 6’-1”, 200-pound right-hander hit an absurd .771 (64-for-83) over 31 games as a senior at Arlington Country Day HS in Florida. He added 20 doubles, six triples, 22 home runs, 52 RBI, 28 stolen bases with a slash line of .835/1.952/2.787. He also drew 32 walks to just three strikeouts. Some questioned his intensity, saying his fiery approach to the game could be construed as a bad attitude/cocky at times. He has since shown how ridiculous a statement that was.
The AFL is a kind of finishing school for the game’s top prospects. Each team sends seven of their most talented players to refine their games and allow scouts and execs to all meet at one centralized location to bask in the glory of their accomplishments, as well as the sun. The season goes until mid-November with each team playing 36 games. Some players who have participated in the league are Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and some guy named Michael Jordan. The league started in 1992.
Baez, playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, is the second youngest player in the league. He is there to work on some mechanical issues, as well as his overall game.
In an interview with Jonathan Raymond at MLB.com:
“I feel pretty good, just trying to work on slowing my body down, hit the ball to the right side, stuff like that,” he explained. “I’m pretty happy [so far], it’s pretty fun and I enjoy it. Just keep working hard, have a good fall.”
Aside from Baez, the Cubs also sent prospects OF Matt Szczur, RHP Tony Zych, RHP Kevin Rhoderick, RHP Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP Nick Struck and OF/2B Rubi Silva.