|Chicago Cubs – No. 70|
December 1, 1992 |
Bayamón, Puerto Rico
|Bats: Right||Throws: Right|
Ednel Javier Báez (born December 1, 1992) is a Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop who plays in Minor League Baseball as a member of the organization of the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB). He currently plays with the Iowa Cubs of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.
Born in Puerto Rico, Báez attended high school in Jacksonville, Florida, and starred for his school's baseball team. The Cubs selected Báez with the ninth overall selection of the 2011 MLB Draft. He has emerged as one of the best prospects in baseball. Prior to the 2014 season, he was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the fourth-best prospect in baseball.
Early life and introduction to baseball
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Báez moved to Florida in 2005 along his mother and siblings, three brothers and a sister. The move was done so that his sister, Noely, could get medical treatment for her condition of spina bifida, since the costs of traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and the United States for this purpose was draining their income. He was introduced to baseball in that Caribbean island. Báez and his two brothers, Gadiel and Rolando, became familiar with the sport through their father, Ángel Luis Báez, who regardless of working until 6:00 P.M. frequently took them to practice in an adjacent park. Despite dying when he was only ten, their father heavily influenced their life and was responsible for their interest in baseball. The brothers would later immortalize this interest by getting tattoos of Major League Baseball's logo, which symbolized that "baseball has been in [their] lives forever." Rolando was the first to become a professional baseball player, being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2002. As middle school student, it took time for Báez to adapt since he was unable to fluently speak or understand English. Báez eventually learned the language through trial and error in a process that lasted for three years, memorizing words before knowing their actual meaning.
Báez played the last two years of his secondary education for Arlington Country Day School (ACD) in Jacksonville, Florida. His coach at ACD, Ron Dickerson, noted that initially scouts were not impressed by him, noting his talent, but not believing he could become star. Dickerson emphasized that Báez's work ethnic was responsible for positioning him as a real prospect. As a sophomore he had a .463 batting average with 38 hits, of which nine were doubles and 13 were home runs. Making 82 plate appearances in 25 games, he also gathered 60 runs batted in (RBIs). By the time that his junior season was over, Báez was a highly rated Aflac All-American. In his senior season, he recorded 64 hits in 83 at-bats to gather an average of .771, which included 20 doubles and 22 home runs. In total, Báez recorded 52 RBIs in 30 games. During his time at ACD, he never played a position steadily. After working at second baseman, Báez was moved to shortstop once the team lost a player. Besides these positions, he also played as a center fielder and as catcher.
||This section may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (July 2014)|
The Chicago Cubs selected Báez in the first round, with the ninth overall selection, of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. He officially began his professional career by playing shortstop for the Rookie Class Arizona League Cubs, where he only played in three games, recording three hits in 12 at-bats for a .333 average, which he combined with two stolen bases. Of his hits, two were doubles which contributed to a slugging of .500 and .833 OPS. However, for the Boise Hawks of the Class A-Short Season Northwest League, Báez only recorded a single in two games, for an average of .167 in six at bats. He also batted one run in and struck out twice. On September 29, 2011, he was selected third overall by the Leones de Ponce in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente's (LBPRC) rookie draft, but has yet to play there due to the Cubs' limitations.
Before the 2012 season, MLB.com rated Báez as the 62nd best prospect in baseball. He remained with the Cubs' extended spring training team, participating in 26 games and hitting 6 doubles, 3 triples and 8 home runs in 94 plate appearances. His performance included 28 RBI and 11 stolen bases, but also 23 strikeouts. The highlight of the extended spring training came on April 16, 2012, when Báez hit for the cycle driving in 5 runs and stealing a base. He inaugurated the season by playing with the Peoria Chiefs of the Class A Midwest League, hitting twice in his debut. During the following games, Báez struggled at the plate while adjusting, going hitless with seven strikeouts. However, he broke this slump by hitting home runs in consecutive games and gathering 5 RBIs. Báez hit a triple and four hits in his next two games, before entering another hitless streak of three games. He then entered a hitting streak of seven games, where he scored 9 hits and 2 home runs for five RBIs. The next eight games included another streak, where Báez batted 8 hits including 2 doubles. After going hitless in two games, he entered a 16-game streak that lasted throughout July 2012, where he recorded 28 hits, including six home runs, and had 13 RBIs. After going hitless for two games, Báez had three consecutive two-hit games, which were accentuated by another home run and five RBIs. He entered into a final four game hitting streak before being promoted to the Daytona Cubs of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League (FSL), hitting one final home run in his last game. Báez struggled to adjust to the league, going hitless until his third game, when he also recorded his first 3 RBIs on a double. After passing a four-game slump, he entered a three-game hitting streak, hitting another double and his first home run. Báez struggled during the next week, going hitless in five games. However, he ended on a strong note, recording hits in six out of seven games, including a double, a triple and 3 home runs. Baseball America included Báez in two of its "Best Tools" lists, naming him the "Most Exciting Player in the Midwest League" and the "Best Defensive Infielder" in the Chicago Cubs system.
Before the 2013 season, Báez was rated as the 16th best prospect in baseball. The Cubs invited him to join their team in spring training, which competes annually in the Cactus League. Báez hit four home runs in five at-bats over the course of two games. The first was an unofficial exhibition game against the Japanese national baseball team that was active in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where one of his two home runs decided the game in the ninth inning. Báez repeated this performance the following day, where both of his home runs were hit against Kansas City Royals' starter Bruce Chen. He went on to hit two more home runs, also concluding with a .298 batting average and 10 RBIs. Báez returned to the Daytona Cubs to open the 2013 season. In his first five games he gathered three RBIs on four hits, including a double, a triple and a home run. After going hitless for two games, Báez entered a three-game hitting streak that also included two doubles and a triple. After this one was snapped, he entered into a similar streak, where he gathered two home runs. This was followed by an intermittent series of multi-hit games, which concluded in a seven-game hitting streak and featured 4 doubles, 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. After a mixed series, where Báez scored another home runs, he entered a ten-game hitting streak which earned him 4 doubles and a triple. He followed this by hitting 3 home runs in alternate games, also gathering 4 doubles and 11 RBIs. On June 10, 2013, Báez hit four home runs in one game, becoming the second player to do so in the history of the FSL. However, he then entered a slump of six games, during which his only hit was another home run. Báez recovered in his next eight games, where he had three multi-hit games, 2 doubles and 2 home runs. Báez was named one of the five finalists in the fan vote for the final spot on the World Team's roster for the 2013 All-Star Futures Game, but he finished second to Carlos Correa. He concluded his participation in Daytona immersed in another hitting streak, accentuated by his final home run, one that placed him as the FSL's leader with 17.
On July 6, 2013, the Cubs promoted Báez to the Tennessee Smokies of the Class AA Southern League after displaying more plate discipline and walking more often during the previous month. After hitting a home run in his first at-bat for the team, he went hitless for the next three games. Báez quickly adjusted, entering a series of multi-hit games and hitting 3 home runs and a double. He followed this with 2 doubles and 3 home runs in his next seven games. Despite being successful offensively, Báez also struck out frequently throughout this timeframe, recording at least one strikeout in 15 consecutive games. He finished the month of July by hitting 3 more home runs and batting in 6 runs. Báez began the following month by entering a hitting streak of six games, five of which were consecutive multi-hit games, during which he gathered 5 doubles and 9 RBIs. After this one was snapped, a similar streak followed, adding 4 doubles and 2 home runs. During the following week, Báez recorded intermittent multi-hit games, adding another 2 doubles and 3 home runs. Despite remaining high, his strikeout percentage stabilized and improved throughout August. He closed the 2013 with mixed success, going hitless in four games but batting more than one hit in the other three, including his final 3 home runs and gathering 10 RBIs. Báez was named to both the FSL and Southern League All-Star teams at the conclusion of the season. The Cubs named him their Minor League Player of the Year, closing the season as the top-ranked prospect in the team's system and third overall in the Southern League. On October 28, 2013, Báez won the MiLBY Award for Best Minor League Game of the Year, recognizing his four-home run game.
The Cubs invited Báez to spring training in 2014. Competing in the Cactus League, he initially served as a replacement until an injury suffered by Starlin Castro allowed him regular playing time. After going hitless in his first game against Los Angeles Angels, he entered a streak of games where he recorded extra base hits, which started with a double against Kansas City. Báez went on to hit home runs in consecutive games against the Brewers and Rockies. To increase his versatility, Báez began practicing at second base and third base. He was reassigned to Minor League camp during the final week of spring training. Bothered by a back injury, he opened his participation with the Iowa Cubs immersed in a slump, with his only hit in 20 at bats being the first home run of the season. During the second week of the season, Báez had his first multi-hit game and hit a second home run before being placed on the seven day disabled list with an ankle sprain. Ten days later, he returned to the lineup, but his performance faltered. Despite hitting safely in six of his next ten games, only two of those hits were for extra bases, a triple and his third home run. To complicate matters, Báez struck out 15 times and only had four walks. Barring these struggles, he was able to find some degree of success by batting seven runs in. This slump deepened in early May, when Báez's batting average fell below .150 after going hitless in eight of ten games and only managing to bat a single run in. All four of his hits during this timeframe were singles and his strikeout-to-walk ratio worsened for a total of 20 outs versus four walks. However, citing a more patient approach at the plate, Báez was able to suddenly break this slump, beginning a hitting streak on May 16, 2014. This run included five multi-hit games, during which he scored ten extra-base hits for eight doubles and four home runs, the latter of which included a grand slam. This led to an improved 14 runs batted in. His strikeout total dipped to only eleven, despite only walking twice. On May 26, 2014, Báez was named the Pacific Coast League's Player of the Week for the previous week.
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- Javier Báez on Twitter