View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Friday

21

March 2014

28

COMMENTS

Why Javier Baez Should Start in AAA

Written by , Posted in General

Before I get into my thesis, check out this photo (props to Brett at BleacherNation.com for turning me on to this):

Take a look at where that pitch is – just a few feet from home plate. Take a look where Baez’s bat is: pointed almost straight at the pitcher. No way he gets that around and makes contact, right? WRONG! How does he do it. BAT SPEED OF THE GODS. Right after this moment, he hit a 450+ ft. homerun to center field.

So, Baez has proven he is ready for the big leagues (with a league-leading 5 homeruns this spring) and should break camp with the team, right? I mean, it’s not like the Cubs have tons of great players, so we should just go ahead and see what we have with this kid, right? WRONG! Here’s why:

1) Baez could still use development. Remember, he’s never seen an at-bat in AAA. You might be saying, “…but, he’s killing MLB pitching, who needs AAA?” Well, keep in mind that 1) he’s not hitting these homeruns off of Clayton Kershaw (many of these pitchers will be in MiLB as well, 2) pitchers in spring training are often working on spotting the fastball, so they aren’t always using their repertoire in the same way they would during the season, and 3) Baez has looked really bad at times striking out on breaking balls way outside the zone. Baez is always going to kill mistakes – there’s no doubt about it, but his pitch recognition skills leave much to be desired. He pretty much swings at everything – if a pitcher makes a mistake, it goes 500 ft., but if a pitcher spots a breaking ball, Baez is going to swing and miss more often than not. The comparisons of Baez to Gary Sheffield in terms of bat speed are apt – the difference is that Sheffield had great pitch recognition skills, even as a teenager. There are some that believe that pitch recognition cannot be developed past a certain age. That might be true, but it’s worth giving Baez a little more time in the minors to work specifically on that skill.

2) All that said, Baez might break camp with the MLB club this spring if it weren’t for long-term financial concerns (HUGE props to Justin Jabs at baseblog94.com for a great rundown of this issue). Here’s the short version: players make the league minimum for the first three years of their careers; in years 4, 5, and 6, they are eligible for arbitration (and thus more money); after 6 years, they are eligible for free agency. To clock a year of service time, a player has to log 172 days in the majors. So, if the Cubs wait until late April, they avoid losing an entire year of pre-free agent years. If the Cubs were a team on the cusp of a playoff berth, OK – maybe you don’t care about the long-term consequences and keep him on the roster now to go for it this season. Obviously, the Cubs aren’t in that position, so there’s absolutely no reason to lose that year.

3) There’s also a reason he might not be called up until July: the Super 2 rule. The top 22% of players (in terms of service time) that have less than three years of service time but more than two are eligible for arbitration a year early (after 2 years instead of 3). The cutoff for Super 2 is July. So, there is another reason that we might have to wait awhile to see Baez at Wrigley.

As Joe pointed out on the podcast (which, btw, you should go to iTunes and check out), many young players are being signed to long-term deals before they reach free agency, so this shouldn’t be a factor, right? The Cubs will just sign him to a long-term deal long before he reaches free agency. This is probably true, but Theo has stated that the team policy is to buy one of the free agent years and to include a second in a team option. So, the team will have more equity in a player if they have more years of pre-arbitration or pre-free agency left when the contract is negotiated. The team is giving a player a contract sooner than they “have” to, so they have more leverage. These service-time issues are still factors in this scenario.

So, even though I’ve stated that Baez is already my favorite player, I’m more than happy to wait to see him at Clark and Addison for all the reasons I’ve discussed above. I think it will be worth the wait.

Until next Friday…

 

 

  • PLCB3

    One of my drinking buddies suggested if he pans out as expected, said contract McJedEp gives him will be 7/85. When you showed that photo and said amazing fast bat speed, Gary Sheffield was exactly who I thought of before I even read the rest of your post.

  • AC0000000

    One of my drinking buddies suggested if he pans out as expected, said contract McJedEp gives him will be 7/85. When you showed that photo and said amazing fast bat speed, Gary Sheffield was exactly who I thought of before I even read the rest of your post.

  • PLCB3

    Regarding the Super-2, if he is going to get a contract anyways, would that have any bearing on a deal? Rizzo and Castro were going to be Super-2 players and they still got team friendly deals.

  • AC0000000

    Regarding the Super-2, if he is going to get a contract anyways, would that have any bearing on a deal? Rizzo and Castro were going to be Super-2 players and they still got team friendly deals.

  • PLCB3

    Also, there is no defined cut-off date for Super-2. It is in relation to his peers. So if everyone waited until July to call up their prospects, then all those players would be super-2. Kind of sounds like a prisoners dilemma game to me.

  • AC0000000

    Also, there is no defined cut-off date for Super-2. It is in relation to his peers. So if everyone waited until July to call up their prospects, then all those players would be super-2. Kind of sounds like a prisoners dilemma game to me.

  • Sean Powell

    From Tim Dierkes: The projected Super Two cutoff is two years and 119 days of Major League service time, according to Ryan Galla of CAA Baseball. This number is often written as 2.119.Players with at least three but less than six years of Major League service are considered arbitration eligible. Additionally, a player with at least two years but less than three is eligible for arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and ranks in the top 22% in total service in the two-to-three class. The current collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect December 12th, 2011, raised that Super Two percentage from 17% to 22%. Bottom line: Super Two players are arbitration eligible four times instead of the usual three.

    The key there is the 86 days – about half the season, which would land in July. If you call up a guy after that, he’ll have less than 86 days in the alluded-to “immediately preceding season.” It’s sort of complicated, but the upshot is there is a reason to hold a guy down until after that.

    • PLCB3

      I don’t argue the merits of keeping him down for service time and Super-2 reasons. I’m just trying to establish how a team ensures a player does not reach Super-2.
      So what this is saying is if service time is less than 2.86, a player is not eligible for Super-2, even if he is in the top 22%?

      • Sean Powell

        Yes – the player must be in the top 22% of players who have met the criteria.

      • PLCB3

        Right. From what you quoted it says top 22% AND service time greater than or equal to 2.86. Meaning to me if service time is less than or equal to 2.85, he is not eligible even if in the top 22%.

  • Sean Powell

    From Tim Dierkes: The projected Super Two cutoff is two years and 119 days of Major League service time, according to Ryan Galla of CAA Baseball. This number is often written as 2.119.Players with at least three but less than six years of Major League service are considered arbitration eligible. Additionally, a player with at least two years but less than three is eligible for arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and ranks in the top 22% in total service in the two-to-three class. The current collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect December 12th, 2011, raised that Super Two percentage from 17% to 22%. Bottom line: Super Two players are arbitration eligible four times instead of the usual three.

    Waiting until July will ensure that the player will get less than 119 days of service time in that first year, making him ineligible for Super 2 status between years 2 and 3.

    • AC0000000

      I don’t argue the merits of keeping him down for service time and Super-2 reasons. I’m just trying to establish how a team ensures a player does not reach Super-2.
      So what this is saying is if service time is less than 2.86, a player is not eligible for Super-2, even if he is in the top 22%?

      • Sean Powell

        Yes – the player must be in the top 22% of players who have met the criteria.

      • AC0000000

        Right. From what you quoted it says top 22% AND service time greater than or equal to 2.86. Meaning to me if service time is less than or equal to 2.85, he is not eligible even if in the top 22%.

  • Chuck

    Because of the current state of the MLB roster, I would send him to AAA if for no other reason than for him to build confidence before hitting the MLB level. I have never heard of staying in the minors being detrimental to player development when the player is this young, however here are scads of players whose development was stunted due to being rushed to the Majors. The kid will be 21 this season. No reason to rush him. The money issues are secondary. The Cubs have the money to secure him long-term if/when it comes to that a few years down the line.

  • Chuck

    Because of the current state of the MLB roster, I would send him to AAA if for no other reason than for him to build confidence before hitting the MLB level. I have never heard of staying in the minors being detrimental to player development when the player is this young, however here are scads of players whose development was stunted due to being rushed to the Majors. The kid will be 21 this season. No reason to rush him. The money issues are secondary. The Cubs have the money to secure him long-term if/when it comes to that a few years down the line.

  • Noah_I

    In regards to extending Baez, getting another year of service time will also cost the Cubs less in the extension. So if the Cubs bring him up on opening day, and signed a 7 year extension with 2 team options afterwards, his pay for each year would take into account his service time. Since he’d have 2 pre-arb years and 3 arb years to account for, the 7 years of that contract would start with 2 years at near the league minimum, then 3 years to track arbitration values, and the remaining 2 years plus the 2 options at a negotiated value for giving up free agency.

    If the Cubs wait to call him up until after the Super 2 deadline, the first 3 years of the contract would be for near league minimum, then you’d have the 3 arb years, and only the one bought out free agent year and the two option years.

    Since you’d be exchanging a league minimum year for a free agent year, the Cubs would likely save somewhere between $14 and $19 million over the course of the contract. If the Cubs bring him up in May, the savings will be pretty nominal (a few million), since they’d be exchanging an additional year at the top arbitration payment levels for a year of free agency instead of a league minimum year.

    Beyond that, Baez could use a couple hundred plate appearances against Triple A pitching. He’s been facing a wide variety of quality of pitchers this spring, and it would be nice for him to consistently face pitchers with pretty good control in Triple A to work on refining his approach.

    • Sean Powell

      Good points, Noah. I think we’re all assuming, though, that the Baez will be amazing right off the bat, so the Cubs will want to lock him up long term. I don’t think there’s a chance that they would sign him to a long-term contract in April – he still has much to prove. So, it would be advantageous for the Cubs to have as many pre-FA years to work with – they would have at a minimum 6 pre-FA years to allow him to establish himself before their hand is forced. I do think he’ll sign a long-term deal before FA, though, it’s just not a guarantee. Moreover, I agree with you that the main reason is that he needs to see some AAA pitching – those arms aren’t necessarily more talented than in AA, but they tend to have better control, pitch selection, scouting, and overall pitching strategy.

      • Noah_I

        I agree, I was just doing earliest possible extension scenario. If Baez comes up in July and rips 15 home runs as a 21 year old in a half season, the Cubs could very well want to lock him up this offseason.

        And I also agree, the biggest reason to keep him down as that he could use more seasoning against Triple A pitching.

  • Noah_I

    In regards to extending Baez, getting another year of service time will also cost the Cubs less in the extension. So if the Cubs bring him up on opening day, and signed a 7 year extension with 2 team options afterwards, his pay for each year would take into account his service time. Since he’d have 2 pre-arb years and 3 arb years to account for, the 7 years of that contract would start with 2 years at near the league minimum, then 3 years to track arbitration values, and the remaining 2 years plus the 2 options at a negotiated value for giving up free agency.

    If the Cubs wait to call him up until after the Super 2 deadline, the first 3 years of the contract would be for near league minimum, then you’d have the 3 arb years, and only the one bought out free agent year and the two option years.

    Since you’d be exchanging a league minimum year for a free agent year, the Cubs would likely save somewhere between $14 and $19 million over the course of the contract. If the Cubs bring him up in May, the savings will be pretty nominal (a few million), since they’d be exchanging an additional year at the top arbitration payment levels for a year of free agency instead of a league minimum year.

    Beyond that, Baez could use a couple hundred plate appearances against Triple A pitching. He’s been facing a wide variety of quality of pitchers this spring, and it would be nice for him to consistently face pitchers with pretty good control in Triple A to work on refining his approach.

    • Sean Powell

      Good points, Noah. I think we’re all assuming, though, that the Baez will be amazing right off the bat, so the Cubs will want to lock him up long term. I don’t think there’s a chance that they would sign him to a long-term contract in April – he still has much to prove. So, it would be advantageous for the Cubs to have as many pre-FA years to work with – they would have at a minimum 6 pre-FA years to allow him to establish himself before their hand is forced. I do think he’ll sign a long-term deal before FA, though, it’s just not a guarantee. Moreover, I agree with you that the main reason is that he needs to see some AAA pitching – those arms aren’t necessarily more talented than in AA, but they tend to have better control, pitch selection, scouting, and overall pitching strategy.

      • Noah_I

        I agree, I was just doing earliest possible extension scenario. If Baez comes up in July and rips 15 home runs as a 21 year old in a half season, the Cubs could very well want to lock him up this offseason.

        And I also agree, the biggest reason to keep him down as that he could use more seasoning against Triple A pitching.

  • Bill Fell

    There is really no reason to bring Baez up. We will not be in contention anyways, and Barney is hitting the ball well and might be a trade commodity during the year (rumors of Tigers looking at him), Olt has been hitting the piss out of the ball and is finally playing some hot corner for us and Castro has been hurt, but is coming back soon. He has ZERO walks this spring and twelve strikeouts. Yes, some of these pitchers are major league pitchers, but he needs to develop more plate discipline to go against Wainwright, Latos, and others who can spot their curve ball pretty well in the central. There is no rush, and if it makes him a better player then why the hell not?!

  • Bill Fell

    There is really no reason to bring Baez up. We will not be in contention anyways, and Barney is hitting the ball well and might be a trade commodity during the year (rumors of Tigers looking at him), Olt has been hitting the piss out of the ball and is finally playing some hot corner for us and Castro has been hurt, but is coming back soon. He has ZERO walks this spring and twelve strikeouts. Yes, some of these pitchers are major league pitchers, but he needs to develop more plate discipline to go against Wainwright, Latos, and others who can spot their curve ball pretty well in the central. There is no rush, and if it makes him a better player then why the hell not?!

  • Doc Raker

    The future looks bright, Chris Bryant and Baez could be a couple of pretty big bats in the line up. Bring them up when they are ready, not any sooner. I won’t claim to know when they are ready. Baez entire body is coiled to hit with power, what pitch was that, fastball or off speed? Richie Allen used to hit like that.

    • John Winger

      I think it was a fastball. Jerome Burnitz hit like that also.

  • Doc Raker

    The future looks bright, Chris Bryant and Baez could be a couple of pretty big bats in the line up. Bring them up when they are ready, not any sooner. I won’t claim to know when they are ready. Baez entire body is coiled to hit with power, what pitch was that, fastball or off speed? Richie Allen used to hit like that.

    • John Winger

      I think it was a fastball. Jerome Burnitz hit like that also.