Tag: Javier Baez

Kris Bryant

The Cubs assign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the minors, option Javier Baez as well


We figured this was coming, and here it is: the Chicago Cubs have announced that the have sent Kris Bryant to minor league camp. Shortstop prospect Addison Russell joins him. Also, in a moderate surprise, second baseman Javier Baez, who was on the 40-man roster and had 229 major league plate appearances last season, was optioned to Triple-A.

Bryant’s case has been much discussed. Though he destroyed minor league pitching last year and has hit nine home runs in 44 plate appearances this spring, the Cubs gain a huge financial advantage by keeping him in the minors to start the season, thereby keeping his service time clock from starting to tick. It seems likely that Bryant will, after a couple of weeks, make his major league debut.

Baez is a bit more of a surprise, as many assumed he would be the Cubs starting second baseman to start the season. He has, however, shown horrendous plate discipline so far in his career and has looked particularly lost this spring, striking out 20 times in 16 games and showing no suggestion that he has a plan when he comes up to the plate other than “swing hard and hope I make contact.”

Russell, a highly-regarded prospect who came to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade last summer, has hit well this spring but doesn’t yet have a clear position with the big club given the presence of Starlin Castro. And he has barely played above Double-A yet.

All three of these guys figure in the future of the Chicago Cubs. But that future is not here just yet.

2015 Preview: Chicago Cubs

kris bryant

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Chicago Cubs.

The Big Question: Are they ready to contend?

It has been 106 years since the Cubs won a World Series championship — the longest title drought in North American professional sports — and they haven’t appeared in a Fall Classic since 1945.

Is this their year? Is it finally gonna happen?

Answering that would require predicting the unpredictable — MLB’s playoffs — but the 2015 Cubs could very well be in the conversation when October comes. From the starting lineup to the starting rotation to the much-talked-about farm system, there’s talent everywhere in this organization — an organization that has been built and rebuilt and rebuilt again.

Cubs president Theo Epstein has done this latest rebuild properly, amassing a pool of young, cost-controlled players who appear capable of feeding an extended run of success. Kris Bryant, pictured above, was ranked the game’s No. 1 prospect in late February by Baseball America after batting .325/.438/.661 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI in 138 games last season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He should be up in the majors for good around mid-April. Five other Cubs prospects made Baseball America’s 2015 Top 100 — shortstop Addison Russell (No. 3 overall), outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 12), catcher Kyle Schwarber (No. 19), right-hander C.J. Edwards (No. 38), and outfielder Billy McKinney (No. 83). Schwarber and McKinney aren’t expected to contribute at the major league level this season, but the others should.

Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs in 2012 after defecting from Cuba, posted a .903 OPS with five home runs and 20 RBI over his first 24 games for Chicago in 2014. He will be the starting right fielder when the 2015 campaign kicks off on April 5, and the 23-year-old is already being trusted at cleanup.

Batting third in front of Soler will be 25-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who broke out last season with a .913 OPS and 32 home runs. One of Epstein’s first moves as Cubs president was acquiring Rizzo from the Padres, and Theo locked Rizzo up about a year-and-a-half after the trade to a team-friendly seven-year, $41 million contract extension with club options for 2020 and 2021. Epstein personally selected Rizzo in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft when he was still the general manager of the Red Sox.

Bryant, Soler, and Rizzo should be the cornerstones of the Northsiders’ offense going forward and they’ll probably be plenty potent in their first year together at the major league level.

What else is going on?

  • Another potential offensive cornerstone is 22-year-old infielder Javier Baez, who was rated the the No. 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2014 season. He struck out 95 times in 52 games as a rookie, but Baez possesses rare bat speed and jaw-dropping minor league numbers. In 2013, he put up a .920 OPS, 37 home runs, and 20 stolen bases in 130 games between High-A and Double-A. The hope is that he can develop a little more plate discipline and settle in as the Cubs’ long-term second baseman.
  • Not satisfied with waiting for some of the internal options to grow, Epstein and Co. executed a pair of well-received trades over the winter that shored up holes at catcher and center field. Veteran backstop Miguel Montero, a two-time All-Star, was acquired from the Diamondbacks in December for right-handers Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley. Dynamic center fielder Dexter Fowler, a capable leadoff man, was picked up from the Astros in January for right-hander Dan Straily and third baseman Luis Valbuena.
  • The biggest offseason move for the Cubs was signing left-handed starter Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million free agent contract. That’s a ton of scratch for a 31-year-old pitcher, but the Cubbies print cash and they’ve been waiting to flaunt it. Lester registered a 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 220 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings last summer between the Red Sox and A’s. He’s the ace the Cubs needed. Following him in the rotation will be Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, and Kyle Hendricks. Arrieta is a former top prospect of the Orioles who became a post-hype darling in 2014 with the Cubs, producing a 2.53 ERA, 0.989 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings. Hammel was traded away from the Cubs last July as part of the Jeff Samardzija deal and then re-signed this winter to a two-year, $18 million free agent contract. Hammel had a 2.98 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 108 2/3 innings last year for Chicago before struggling out in Oakland. It’s a sneaky-good group, and the Cubs have the chips to make in-season upgrades.
  • Joe Maddon worked miracles with young, low-budget teams in Tampa Bay and seems like the perfect manager to lead the Cubs into this new era of success. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract with Chicago last November after using an opt-out to escape the Rays following their big front office change.
  • Wrigley Field is in the first phase of a massive renovation that probably won’t be fully completed until 2019. The bleachers and brand new video boards were the main focus this offseason, and a combination of bad winter weather and structural issues caused predictable delays. The bleachers aren’t going to be finished until sometime in June, so there will be an eeriness in the outfield on Opening Night against the rival Cardinals and for the following eight-plus weeks. It’s a 101-year-old building, but anyone who has visited Wrigleyville knows that it’s worth preserving. Cubs fans are well-schooled in the virtue of patience.

Prediction: If everything goes right — Bryant becomes an instant star, Baez learns to lay off the junk, and shortstop Starlin Castro sharpens his game — the Cubs will be a factor in a deep divisional race. But they’re probably one more year away from making the big jump. This team finishes third in the National League Central and just out of the reach for the second National League Wild Card spot with 84 total wins.

Joe Maddon on Javier Baez: “Of course, there’s a chance he doesn’t make the team”

javier baez

Javier Baez has been penciled in as the Cubs’ starting second baseman, but manager Joe Maddon made it pretty clear that the job is hardly being handed to him.

Maddon told Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:

Of course, there’s a chance he doesn’t make the team. There’s no lock in regard to that. I talked about the entitlement program. It doesn’t exist. Everything has to be earned.

Baez has lots of long-term potential as a middle infielder with 30-homer power, but he struck out a ton in the minors and then hit .169 with 95 strikeouts in his 52-game debut for the Cubs. Those struggles have continued this spring, which is why it might be Tommy La Stella or Arismendy Alcantara playing second base on Opening Day while the 22-year-old Baez tries to get on track back at Triple-A.

At the same time, Maddon also made it clear that he realizes the strikeouts and out-of-control swings are part of the overall package that contains Baez’s big-time power potential, saying: “I think it bothers the fans more than it bothers me.”

VIDEO: Cubs prospect Kris Bryant hits two more home runs

Chicago Cubs photo day

Cubs fans got a sneak preview at the future on Tuesday when Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. Well, Bryant went mashing again today against the Angels by going 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double. By the way, the first home run went over the head of Will Ferrell, who was playing center field at the time.

Here’s home run No. 1…

And home run No. 2…

Bryant led the minors with 43 home runs last season while posting a 1.098 OPS and now he has four homers this spring. You can obviously make the case that the 23-year-old deserves to be with the Cubs on Opening Day from a talent perspective, but the expectation is that he’ll head down to the minors for a couple of weeks to delay his free agency by a year. Unfortunately, that’s the system we have right now.

Cubs fans: Wait ’til next year? “Screw it, it’s our year.”



MESA, Ariz. — “Wait ’til next year.” That’s been the Cubs’ motto for more than a century. It’s gone from a sincerely held belief to a ironic philosophy to meta commentary on the existential dilemma of what it is to be a a Cubs fan. At its very bottom it’s a verbal identifier for members of the same sad tribe. So much losing for so long has caused Cubs fans to build up all manner of psychological defenses, a motto which tells them their reward will come not now but later chief among them.

Walking around the Cubs’ gorgeous new spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona this morning, however, and I found some people who are committing what’s tantamount to a thought crime among Cubs fans: present optimism.

There’s good reason for it. The Cubs have undergone nothing short of a transformation in the past few years. The organization is rotten with top hitting prospects like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are superstars, each only entering their age-25 seasons and each around whom a serious contender can be built. The acquisition of Jon Lester this past winter was a free agent coup no one would’ve dreamed the Cubs could pull off even a year ago. The same could be said of the hiring of Joe Maddon away from the Rays. The amount of positivity surrounding this organization right now is pretty staggering, especially considering that they’re coming off a 73-89 season.

source:  I asked Don Myers of Cary, Illinois — here with his wife Joyce (a White Sox fan) and daughter Nicole (non-committal, but wearing a Cubs shirt) — if they’re excited about the 2015 Cubs. Or if, after a lifetime of disappointment as a Cubs fan, maybe it’s a good idea to temper one’s enthusiasm. He rejected the notion.

“Screw it. It’s our year,” Myers said with a chuckle. He’s not deluded of course. He knows the NL Central is tough and ballclubs can take a while to gel. But Myers said that it’s baseball and what’s the point of being a baseball fan if you don’t think positively? “I’m quite optimistic,” Myers said. When I told him about Soler, Baez and Bryant going back-to-back-to-back yesterday he smiled and said offered a low, happy “wooo!”

More tempered in her optimism is Diana Jaworski of Joliet. Jaworski — visiting Mesa with her husband Jeff, also a White Sox fan — said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the new-look Cubs. Jaworski is more what you expect from a Cubs fan. She has had her heart broken pretty consistently since the 1969 collapse. “When the ball went between Leon Durham’s legs [in the 1984 NLCS] I sobbed,” she said. She remembers being crushed when Steve Bartman happened in 2003. “We were six outs from the World Series. It just wasn’t our turn,” she says. Though she sounds like, even more than a decade later, she’s trying to convince herself of that.

Jaworski’s hesitance to fully buy-in is not merely a product of those heartbreaking moments, however. When talking about Joe Maddon and his positive attitude she said, “we were supposed to get excited about Don Zimmer. Don Baylor. Dusty Baker. Lou Piniella.” She noted that, under those regimes, it was more typical for the Cubs to “put together a bunch of old players who were famous but whose careers were almost over” while the new Cubs are all about young up and coming players. She is aware that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer transformed another one time sad sack organization into a champion and thinks it can happen with the Cubs too.

But she’s not in the bag just yet. Jaworski has four children, three of whom are Cubs fans. “I’ve told them all, ‘honey, I’m sorry I ever did this to you.'”

If Don Myers is right, however, she won’t be sorry soon.