Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com has the news:
The Cubs are planning to make Javier Baez part of their first wave of September call-ups.
“There’s a lot of things he can do to help you win right now,” manager Joe Maddon said Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Baez batted just .169/.227/.324 and racked up a whopping 95 strikeouts in 52 games last season for the Cubs, but he’s made great strides with his plate approach this year on the farm and he could slide his way into regular playing time in Chicago if he hits well out of the gate. Baez entered play Saturday with a .316/.380/.530 slash line, 13 home runs, 60 RBI, and 17 stolen bases through 67 games at Triple-A Iowa. And he hit a sixth-inning single on Saturday night against the Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Giants to extend his current hitting streak to 15 games.
Baez is projected to get starts at third base, shortstop, and second base initially. He probably fits best at second, where Starlin Castro and Tommy La Stella have been splitting time since Addison Russell was moved to short. Baez, 22, was ranked a top-10 prospect by MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus ahead of the 2014 season. He’s been buried somewhat by some other younger Cubs who have graduated and been able to contribute right away, but the kid’s future still shines bright.
Starlin Castro has been the Cubs’ starting shortstop for the past five Opening Days. There’s a reason he doesn’t have that gig anymore. The reason is named Addison Russell:
The slide and pivot was like freakin’ ballet.
In other news, how bad do you think A’s fans wish they had him and Josh Donaldson back?
With a 19-4 record since late July the Cubs are surging, but now they’ve lost a pair of key players to the disabled list in right fielder Jorge Soler and reliever Jason Motte.
Soler has a strained oblique muscle, which figures to sideline him until at least mid-September and could knock him out for the remainder of the regular season. He’s had a disappointing season relative to his excellent 24-game debut last year, hitting .265 with seven homers and a .710 OPS in 90 games. Expect to see Chris Coghlan shift back to the outfield, with Starlin Castro and Tommy La Stella playing second base.
Motte has a strained shoulder, which is expected to keep him out for at least 3-4 weeks. Thanks to injuries Motte is a shell of his former bat-missing self, striking out just 34 hitters in 48 innings, but he has a 3.91 ERA in 57 appearances and has worked a lot of high-leverage spots for the Cubs.
Prior to Tuesday night Starlin Castro had played every inning of his Cubs career at shortstop, spanning six seasons and 7,400 innings. And then, in the sixth inning, manager Joe Maddon summoned Castro from his spot on the bench–where he’s been since last Friday–and brought him into the game at second base.
Castro played four innings there and afterward Maddon told reporters that it would be his primary position going forward, meaning rookie Addison Russell is now the Cubs’ starting shortstop after playing second base all season.
The move speaks to how much the Cubs like Russell long term, believing he has a chance to be an All-Star caliber shortstop who’s a plus offensively and defensively, but it also shows just how far Castro’s stock has fallen in Chicago. And elsewhere, too, because if the Cubs could have traded Castro and the remaining $40 million on his contract for anything of value last month they likely would have done so.
Castro showed a ton of promise early in his career, hitting .300 as a 20-year-old rookie and making the All-Star team three times by age 24, but he’s been awful this season with a .235 batting average and .574 OPS and in general has shown very little improvement in any key aspect of his game. And the Cubs have several good prospects capable of playing second base, including Javier Baez, so the position switch may be a temporary one for Castro before a permanent switch to a new team.