Fantasy Baseball: Javier Baez worth a pickup?

Chicago CubsThe Chicago Cubs began their wave of prospect call-ups a few weeks ago when they promoted Arismendy Alcantara. The next Cubs’ prospect to make his way to the majors is their hard-hitting shortstop, Javier Baez. Baez, rated the #5 prospect headed into the 2014 season by Baseball America, has been called up and will make his MLB debut on Tuesday, August 5 against the Colorado Rockies.

Baez played almost all of his games in the minors at shortstop, but barring something happening to Starlin Castro, Baez will man second base. It will be interesting to see how Baez handles second; of his 306 games played at the professional level, only 16 came at second base.

[David Price trade implications]

Baez is not the best fielder, sporting a career .944 fielding percentage. However, he did fair better at second than he did at shortstop. In 2014, he posted a .965 fielding percentage at shortstop and a .976 at second base. Baez is not highly touted for his fielding; it’s his hitting ability that makes him so impressive.

Despite being such a highly ranked prospect, Baez has struggled in 2014. Playing for the Iowa Cubs at the AAA level, he has a slash line of .260/.323/.510 with 23 home runs, 80 RBIs, and 16 steals.

While those numbers don’t sound bad, if you compare them to his ridiculous numbers in 2013 – .282/.341/.578 with 37 long balls, 111 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases at the A+ and AA levels – his 2014 campaign has been underwhelming.

The biggest weakness that Baez has at the plate is that he strikes out far too often. For instance, through 434 plate appearances at the AAA level, Baez struck out exactly 30% of the time. Expanding those numbers to reflect a whole season at the MLB level with 700 plate appearances, he would strike out out 210 times. That’s way too much.

[Fallout of the Lester and Cespedes trade]

With all those strikeout does come the potential to hit 40 homers. Throughout his entire minor league career, he has an impressive mark of 21.26 at bats per home run. Again, stretching that out to an entire season at the MLB level, in 640 at bats, Baez would hit 30 home runs. The scary thing about those numbers is that Baez is just 21. He’ll only get better.

In fantasy baseball, it’s always tempting to pick up promising prospects as soon as they are called up, but with Baez, it may be wise to wait. At every minor league level, Baez initially struggled; this will most likely happen again in the MLB. If it isn’t a keeper, NL only, or extremely deep league, waiting to see how Baez plays is probably the right decision.

It’s hard to project the kind of numbers that Javier Baez will have the rest of the season due to his consistent slow starts. With just over 50 games remaining in the regular season, it is reasonable to expect Baez to hit around .245 with 7 home runs and 30 RBIs.

With all these things in mind, watch Baez closely. If he gets off to a quick start, he could become very valuable, very quickly in fantasy baseball.

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