It's official: The Chicago Cubs' #2 prospect and baseball's #7 overall prospect has finally been called up the majors. Javier Baez will make his MLB Debut tonight at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies at 7:40 CST. Baez is starting at second base, hopefully shoring up the middle of the infield for the next decade alongside double play partner Starlin Castro. Cubs' fans everywhere have soaring expectations and hopes for Baez, and tonight is the first step for him in achieving these goals.
As the night goes on, I'll be updating this post with pitch-by-pitch analysis of Baez's at bats. Keep checking back throughout the night to see my take on the major league debut of one of the Cubs' top prospects.
After Arismendy Alcantara chopped out to SS Josh Rutledge to start the game, Javier Baez stepped up for his first major league at-bat, facing left-hander Brett Anderson.
Pitch 1: Took a high fastball. 1-0
Pitch 2: Took a high curve ball. 2-0
Pitch 3: Baez takes a HUGE swing and chopped ball off of his front foot. 2-1
Pitch 4: Took a high curveball for a strike (really bad call, good take by Baez). 2-2
Pitch 5: Took another big swing and foul tipped it back. 2-2
Pitch 6: Another huge swing, fouling the ball down the left field line. 2-2
Pitch 7: Swung out in front of a slider and missed for a strikeout.
Despite ending in a strikeout, Javy Baez had himself a very good first at-bat. He didn't swing at any balls, so his plate recognition was very good. One thing that stands out to me is how big all of his swings were, no matter what the count. He swung just as hard on pitch 3 with a 2-0 count as he did when there was a 2-2 count. The dude also has HUGE forearms. Baez had himself a good major league at-bat, look for a couple hard-hit balls later in the game.
At-Bat #2 | Currently 0-1 /w K
After Brett Anderson shut down the Cubs for the first three innings, he injured something (looks like his lower back) on his first pitch to Alcantara. With Anderson's injury, the Rockies brought in left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales. He gets Alcantara to line out to center, and with that, Baez steps in for his 2nd at-bat.
Pitch 1: Takes a curve ball on the low inside corner for a strike. 0-1
Pitch 2: Watches a fastball on the outer half for a strike. 0-2
Pitch 3: Takes a fastball low and inside for a ball. 1-2
Pitch 4: Chops a fastball on the outer half down the left field line for a foul ball. 1-2
Pitch 5: Hits a hard ground ball to the left of 3B Nolan Arenado who makes a nice play to throw Baez out at first.
I actually liked Baez's first at-bat that ended in a strikeout better than this one that ended with a decently hard hit ball. Baez did a good job watching pitches 1 and 3 (despite being a strike, pitch 1 would have been a very tough curve ball to hit), but he let a really good one go on pitch number 2. I appreciate his patient approach and he definitely has very good plate discipline, but on a belt-high middle-away fastball, Baez needs to jump on that. On the 2 pitches he swung on, he put good swings on strikes, so it's tough to complain. Let's hope Baez can really get a hold of one next AB.
At-Bat #3 | Currently 0-2 /w K
After an Alcantara KO, Baez comes to the play for his 3rd at-bat with a runner on 2nd and 2 outs. Still facing lefty Franklin Morales.
Pitch 1: Baez takes a HUGE swing and fouls a fast ball up and to the left.
Pitch 2: Takes a curve at the knees for a strike.
Pitch 3: Late swing on a high fastball for a strike out.
This was simply not a good at-at. Baez swung at a ball, took a strike, then swung at another ball. On those two swings, it was also evident that he was trying too hard. He pulled his head way out on both of his swings. Not much to say here other than, "let's hope he doesn't do that next time".
At-Bat #4 | Currently 0-3 /w 2 Ks
After a 6 walk inning (including 2 walked-in runs), the Rockies are bringing out their third pitcher of the inning, right-hander Matt Belisle. Alcantara just walked to load the bases, so Baez is stepping up to the plate with some grand slam potential.
Pitch 1: Swing and foul tip on a hung slider right down the middle. Come on, Javy. 0-1
Pitch 2: Baez goes with a low and away fast ball and beats the snot out of the ball. Deep line drive to the track, but caught for the 3rd out to end the inning.
Baez looked like a man who wanted to get his first MLB hit, run, RBI, HR, and Grand Slam out of the way with one swing of the bat. He pulled his head a little bit on the first swing which caused him to tip it like he did. His kept his head down on the second pitch, however, and really had a great shot to the track. If he gets another at-bat, look for Baez to shoot a gap or shoot it over the wall. He needed to make really good contact to get himself going. I'm calling a Javy HR or double if he gets a 5th at-bat. Let's hope I don't look stupid.
At-Bat #5 | Currently 0-4 /w 2 Ks
Here we are - extra innings. Right-hander Adam Ottavino is on the mound for the Rockies, and after a Mendy KO, it's time for Baez's 5th at-bat. Let's hope my bold prediction of a HR/other XBH comes true...
Pitch 1: Baez checks his swing on a slider low and away but the 1st base ump says he went around. 0-1
Pitch 2: Absolutely UNLOADS on a slider down the middle - but he fouls it to the back stop. 0-2
Pitch 3: Another slider, this one is taken in the dirt. 1-2
Pitch 4: Chases another high fastball, strikeout number 3.
One of the things that is most often preached in the majors is that as a hitter, you may only get one good pitch to hit per at-bat. You need to be sure to jump on that one good pitch you're given. This is definitely a theme I saw with Baez tonight. There was at least one good pitch in every at-bit (pitch #2 in this case), and he took a good, big, aggressive swing like he should, but he fouled it back every time. As I mentioned other times tonight, Baez keeps pulling his head, typically a sign that a player is trying too hard - understandable considering the pressure he is under. This should be Baez's last at-bat. Hopefully his 0-5 night with 3 Ks isn't the sign of things to come. Look for Baez to start keeping his head down as he relaxes more and as the Cubs' coaching staff has a chance to spend more time working out the kinks in his swing.
Overall, despite the unfortunate results, Baez's 4th at-bat should be a sign of optimism for Cubs' fans. If Baez can go back to his Little League roots and keep his eye on the ball, bleacher goers at Wrigley Field should put their beers down and get their gloves ready.
At-Bat #5 | Currently 0-5 /w 3 Ks
So, I must say that I never envisioned Baez getting 6 at-bats, but after Carlos Villaneuva let the Rockies tie the game up in the bottom of the 11th, Baez stepped up to the plate first in the top of the 12th.
Pitch 1: Baez is thrown a fastball on the outer half and...
In my analysis for Baez's 5th at-bat, I thought that was the end of his night. I said that if he can keep his eye on the ball, he could succeed. Well, I have that video playing on a continuous loop, just because it feels good to watch, and it's pretty obvious to me that Baez kept his head on the ball.
It's strange that in Baez's at-bat where he was the least patient, he had the most success; however, he did a great job of jumping on the one good pitch he was going to see his entire at-bat.
Baez's 1-6 night with 3 Ks and a HR basically sums up what many people were expecting from Baez for the first couple weeks. Don't expect Baez to keep up with his 50% KO%, and don't expect him to hit a HR every day. Whatever happens, Baez is an electrifying player who should keep Cubs' fans interested in Cubs' baseball for a long, long time.