With a .216 batting average and 31 strikeouts in 18 games it may be a while before Cubs rookie Javier Baez figures out how to control the strike zone, but the 21-year-old middle infielder has definitely already figured out how to hit the ball really, really far off major-league pitchers.
His latest, a solo shot off Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman:
That gives Baez six homers, which is the second-most in Cubs history through 18 career games behind a guy named Mandy Brooks who went deep eight times through 18 games in 1925. Brooks finished his career with 15 total home runs.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.
Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.
Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.