By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — It may not be this week and it may not be as a middle infielder, but Cubs prospect Javier Baez is inching his way back to Wrigley Field.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: When Might Your $1,400 Economic Relief Payment Arrive?
The 22-year-old No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, Baez has begun to dominate Triple-A pitching again. And now, options for a change of position are being mulled over by the Cubs’ high ranking executives.
Baez came very close to making the parent club out of spring training. A Puerto Rico native, he then missed 10 days of the minor league season due to the tragic death of his sister, who had lived many years with a serious illness. Since returning to competition, Baez has played 12 games at second base,11 at shortstop and one at DH. Offensively, he has re-established himself as a premier hitter. Baez is hitting at a .311 clip with five home runs and 17 RBIs. His previous sky high strikeout rate has improved. Baez has 25 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances at Triple-A this season (24.2 rate) after striking out 95 times in 229 plate appearances (41.5 rate) in the big leagues in 2014.
Baez’s strikeout problems in the major leagues last season seemed like a wasted effort. This spring training, he was making strides with manager Joe Maddon and new hitting coach John Mallee before Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer imposed their opinion and sent Baez back to the minor leagues.
The Cubs have an infield full of young quality position players, and Baez may at some point get a chance to play the outfield — though vice president of the minor leagues and scouting Jason McLeod said there are no plans at this point to move Baez to the outfield.
“He is on a really good run right now,” Mcleod said. “He has had a good five or six games. The mindset is there right now. Javy had a lot to deal with in the offseason from a professional and the personal situation that took place with his family. He is just in a good place right now.”
The old saying in baseball is if you can hit, a team will find a spot for you. Unless there’s a trade, Baez is stuck behind Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Starlin Castro on the infield depth chart.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: 1,182 New Coronavirus Cases, 5 More Deaths; Lowest One-Day Death Toll Since September
“All we are concerned with for him right now is maintaining the good things that are going on for him,” McLeod said. “He is certainly someone who wants to come up here and help the team. Joe, Theo and all of us are looking at that every day. Those are conversations that take place internally every day.”
I asked McLeod if a position change is in the near future foe Baez.
“There are no immediate plans for it right now,” he said. “He does kid around often and take ground balls in the outfield. We might have him do some of those types of things. That won’t be predicated on what is happening up here necessarily.”
Asked one more time directly about Baez getting outfield time, McLeod conceded.
“I mean, who knows,” McLeod said. “It would not be surprising if we did see him out there (outfield). There are no plans in the works to do that, and I want to make that clear. Because he does have the ability and he is a baseball player wouldn’t be surprised to see him go out there and be pretty darn good.”
A usually reliable fielder, Baez has had his troubles so far. He has made a total of 11 errors in those 23 games in the field. Nine errors came at shortstop and two came at second base.MORE NEWS: Park District Spring Program Sign Up Starts Monday
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.