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Could Javier Baez be even better in 2019?

Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Last season, Javier Baez put it all together for the first time. But still only 25 years old, the exciting Chicago Cubs infielder is far from a finished product.

Chicago Cubs standout Javier Baez is what baseball scouts and fans like to refer to as a five-tool player.  In terms of overall potential and ability, how many guys can match the skill set the Puerto Rican native brings to the ballpark every day?

He can run, hit, throw, field and has big-time power at the plate. He is a flexible and versatile defensive player who is lauded for his instincts and ability to quickly slap down tags on would-be base stealers. (He recently won the 2019 Fielding Bible Award as the game’s best multi-position defender.)

In short, Baez does just about everything well on a baseball field minus one thing; walk. That is the one thing that separates him from those guys in parentheses above.  It’s also the one thing that separates Baez from the guy Joe Maddon always compares him to when he lays off crappy sliders: Manny Ramirez. 

Despite a .290/.326/.554 slash line this year, Baez ranked fifth-worst in all of baseball, seeing just 3.48 pitches per plate appearance, second-worst in O-Swing% (swings on pitches outside the strike zone) at 45.5 percent and 10th-worst in walk rate.

To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, “I’m not even mad about that; that’s amazing.”  It’s pretty amazing he can swing at everything and still be such a productive player.  Imagine what he might be able to do if he were just a little bit more selective.  The nightmares for opposing pitchers coming to the Friendly Confines may grow even darker knowing El Mago is waiting.

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