Cubs top prospect Javier Baez has drawn raves all spring for his quick bat and power potential, but the club announced this morning that he has been reassigned to minor league camp.
Baez hit .310 (13-for-42) with five home runs in 14 games during Cactus League play. However, he also struck out 13 times and failed to draw a walk. Today’s move isn’t unexpected, but the bruised right heel he suffered yesterday pretty much sealed it.
While Baez has been playing second base in recent days, fueling speculation that perhaps the Cubs were considering bringing him up to the majors earlier than anticipated, Cubs manager Rick Renteria told David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com that he’ll play shortstop in the minor leagues. Either way, there’s a good chance he’ll make his major league debut by midseason.
Baez, 21, batted .282 with 37 home runs and a .920 OPS over 130 games last season between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee and was recently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.