With all the discussions about the San Diego Padres upgrading their shortstop position, perhaps we have over looked an obvious candidate. Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs has the skill-set that you can easily build your team around. He is an above average defensive shortstop and has Ruthian like power for a middle infielder.
The 22-year-old shortstop was up with the Cubs last season for 52 games. He stepped up to the plate 213 times and slugged nine home runs and drove in 20 runs. Baez did however strike out a mind numbing 95 times. In a full season, with that kind of average, Baez would shatter the strike out record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. The young Puerto Rican slugger swings early and often and never gets cheated with his swing.
Baez possesses extraordinary bat speed and his bat waggle is very reminiscent of former Padre Gary Sheffield. Like Sheffield, Baez has the ability to square up even the quickest of fast balls. The strikeouts are troubling, but given his young age they can be toned down. He will never be a high on base percentage guy, that is for sure. However the power he displays is too enticing to ignore.
Javier Baez is currently in AAA Iowa as the Cubs already have Starlin Castro at shortstop and they have Addison Russell at second base. Russell is considered one of the best young middle infielders in the game. He basically hopped over Baez as far the Cubs future shortstop or second baseman since he was acquired last July from the Oakland Athletics for Jeff Samardzija. Baez this season in AAA is hitting .311 with two homers and 10 RBI’s in 16 games. He has struck out 16 times in 61 at bats and walked five times resulting in a .382 on base percentage.
As far as defense the word on Baez is that he has the soft hands and strong-arm to play the position but sometimes gets too intense and errors multiply on him. Another indication of Baez’s youth and should be easily adjusted. Players that have a lot of passion sometimes take a little while to settle down and be productive major leaguers. The bat is just so appealing though, in 2013 between two minor league teams, Baez hit .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBI’s (147 K’s) in 130 games. Power numbers like that from a shortstop would be impressive indeed.
What would the Cubs require for Baez? That is the question. The Cubs would surely like some pitching help and the Padres could provide that help. Names like Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin and even Ian Kennedy could interest the Cubs. Those pitchers alone would hardly get a deal done, but they could be a very decent starting point. Dexter Fowler is another name on the Cubs that might be of interest to the Padres. Fowler has the defensive skill to play center field and would provide a left-handed bat for the Padres. Fowler would probably only be available if the Cubs fell out of contention.
So would Baez help the Padres this season? He would provide some exciting moments and hit some long bombs, but he is a work in progress. You never know though, he could get comfortable and tone down his swing and be a perennial all-star for 10 years. He has that kind of ability. He is right handed and does strike out a lot. Team him with Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Jedd Gyorko, Wil Myers and Will Middlebrooks and you have a ton of potential strikeouts. That could be devastating to watch as a fan.
San Diego Padres General Manager A.J. Preller is surely on the prowl for upgrades. The shortstop position is where the Padres need the most help. Alexi Amarista is viewed by most as a super utility player, not an everyday shortstop. His lowly on base percentage, (sub .285 lifetime) indicates he shouldn’t play on an every day basis. Javier Baez would provide a young shortstop for the team to roll with for the next few seasons. He has tremendous upside and could easily be a star in this league.