By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — The ascension of good young players to the big leagues appears to have begun for the Chicago Cubs.
Javier Baez, the team’s top pick in the 2011 draft, had three impactful days of hype before playing his first game at Wrigley.
“I knew I would be nervous today ,” the 21-year-old Baez said before Friday’s loss to the Rays. “The fans going crazy will be all right, but I just have to step out of the box and slow everything down.”
Baez has started his big-league career with a flourish that few players have ever had. He has three home runs in three games and five RBIs. The impressive at-bats in Colorado on Thursday stunned some hardened baseball scouts in attendance.
“Wow — when you look at the way his bat speed and confidence take over, you are shocked at how quickly he has made it,” said an advance scout who watched Baez in his first three major-league games. “You have to be impressed with his home run on an inside fastball pulled down the left field line, followed up with a line drive he hit out of the park to right field, on a slider away the next at-bat. He has holes like any hitter. He will do some heavy damage if you miss your pitch.”
Baez has a good support system around with a team full of young veterans to draw from. Starlin Castro is 24, and Anthony Rizzo turned 25 on Friday.
“Rizzo and Castro, they try to tell me everything that might happen,” Baez said. “I will learn from them. After I struck out three times, Rizzo told me he had worse days when he first started. He told me to forget about it.”
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and his front office are proud of the young players like Baez who are starting to come through the system. And there appears to be plenty of position player inventory.
“These are players that have been a part of our vision for a long time,” Epstein said. “Now that they are up here it is easier to see how it all fits together. More people can be excited about it. This helps create a little bit of momentum, which is nice to have around the organization.
“Our fans deserve to get excited. I am just happy for them there are some things to get excited about. Having young players taking at-bats that you can’t miss — that makes us feel good. We are human. There have been some tough times they have had to endure.”
Baez singled to left field in his first at-bat at Wrigley Field on Friday. He showed he was human striking out four times after that.