After finishing as the runner-up in the National League MVP voting, Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez should be nothing but proud of the season he turned in.
We all pretty much knew how this was going to end. Given the second half he turned in, Christian Yelich deserved to win the National League MVP. It’s that simple. But that’s not to take anything away from Chicago Cubs star Javier Baez and the historic performance he gave his teammates this season.
An injured Kris Bryant left a gaping hole in the middle of the Cubs lineup for much of the season. And without so much as a second thought, Baez not only filled that void but leapfrogged longtime offensive linchpin Anthony Rizzo as the team’s biggest offensive weapon.
The Puerto Rican native led the National League with 111 RBI and ranked second in triples, fourth in slugging percentage and fifth in home runs. He set new career-highs in virtually every offensive category, including home runs (34), RBI, batting average (.290), OPS (.881), doubles (40) and triples (9). In short, he was an absolutely dynamic threat with a bat in his hands.
Baez never hit below .262 in a single month – a testament to how far he’s come from his incessant swing-and-miss tendencies we’ve seen in the past. He drove in more than 23 runs in two separate months and quite literally carried Chicago in victories.
In Cubs wins, ‘El Mago’ hung a .995 OPS on opposing pitchers. He was particularly comfortable in the heart of the order. As the team’s three-hitter, he batted a staggering .368 in 22 games. As the cleanup man, he clocked in at a cool .298 – with a .990 OPS.
And don’t forget why they call him ‘El Mago’
We’re checking off all these accomplishments and we haven’t even mentioned where he really garners national attention – flashing the leather. Chicago’s defensive wizard appeared at shortstop in 90 games, at third in 20 and at second 64 times.
Not too shabby, eh?
For the third straight season, Baez earned the Fielding Bible Award for the game’s best multi-positional defensive player. That’s hardly a surprise to anyone who watched this guy play. No matter where he stepped up, he flashed the leather all over the diamond.
What does the future hold?
Now the big question is what will Baez do for an encore? Despite his tremendous individual success in 2018, his team failed to check pretty much any box come season’s end. They lost the NL Central, failed to make it past the Wild Card game and watched the rest of the postseason from home.
The next step? See Baez lead the Cubs deep into October in a fashion similar to the team’s most recent Most Valuable Player recipient, his teammate Kris Bryant.