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Javier Baez – Future Star

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From Puerto Rico to the big leagues, Javier Baez is a heart-warming success story

Not long after the final out of the Chicago Cubs NL Pennant clinching game, Cubs second baseman Javier Baez was presented with the NLCS MVP award. He earned the honors along with Cubs pitcher Jon Lester for outstanding play in the field and at the plate.

During the League Championship Series, Baez hit an incredible .318 with five RBI’s and four doubles. While he was out-preformed by some of his teammates at the plate, no one performed better than Baez in the field. Yes he committed two errors in three games, but the amazing plays that he made during the course of the series more than made up for those miscues.

So, what is the back story to this 23-year-old defensive stud? Well I am glad you asked.

It all began on December 1st, 1992 when Javier Baez was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Javier was taught to love the game of baseball at a young age by his father Angel Baez. Javier, along with his two brothers Gadiel and Rolando got the MLB logo tattooed on their bodies to pay homage to the game that they loved growing up.

When Javier was ten years old, his father died and three years later he and his family moved to Florida. The move was due in part to the fact that Javier’s sister Noely had spina bifida and needed treatment in the U.S.

Javier attended Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida where he first started showing his skills for the game of baseball. He hit over .400 his sophomore year, and by the time he was a junior he had earned the status of All-American. During his time at ACD, Baez learned to play shortstop and second base as well as center field and catcher. This skill development at such an early age has allowed Javier to become a gold glove caliber defender at three different positions (shortstop, second base and third base).

Great work ethic and stellar play led to Javier being selected 9th overall by the Cubs in the 2011 MLB draft. By the start of the 2012 season, Baez was already ranked the 62nd best prospect in baseball. He continued to rip up the low levels of the minor leagues and ended up with the Advanced-A Daytona Cubs by the end of the 2012 season.

Baez’s talents were rewarded with a jump to 16th on MLB’s best prospects list at the beginning of the 2013 season. He was invited to Spring Training with the big league squad and proceeded to hit four home runs in a two game span. After barely missing out on a chance to play in the 2013 Futures Game, Baez was promoted to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. His great season resulted in him being named Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2013.

By this time, Baez was the top prospect in the Cubs system and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His great skill earned him another Spring Training invite. Big league coaches started working with Baez at second and third base to increase his versatility. With more valuable knowledge under his belt, “Javy” was assigned to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs at the conclusion of Spring Training. After a short stump with Iowa, Javier was called up to the majors on August 5th, 2014.

All he did in his major league debut was hit a game-winning home run in the 12th inning to give the Cubs the win over the Colorado Rockies. Two games later, he hit two more home runs making him the first player since 1954 to hit three home runs in his first three big league games.

Baez played in 52 games his rookie season. He hit .169 with nine home runs and 20 RBI’s. The troubling statistic for Baez in 2014 was the fact that he struck out 95 times in 213 at-bats. Strikeouts would continue to be an issue for Baez in the coming seasons.

“Javy” was sent back to Triple-A to start the 2015 season but made his way back to the majors on September 1st. He appeared in 28 games during the 2015 season and hit one home run and drove in four runs. In 76 at-bats, Baez struck out 24 times deepening concerns about his free swinging.

Something clicked for Javier and he has started to become the player that the Cubs had hoped he would become when they drafted him. He played his first full season in a big league uniform in 2016 and did not disappoint. In 421 at-bats, he hit 14 home runs and drove in 59 runs. He did strikeout 108 times but he improved his WAR from 0.6 in 2015 to 3.4 in 2016.

Even though “Javy” is still prone to striking out a lot, you can not overlook the fact that he hustles 99% of the time and gives the game all he has to offer. That was evident when he stole home in Game 1 of the NLCS this year making him the first Cubs player to accomplish that feat in the postseason since 1907. His hustle and raw power forced Cubs manager Joe Maddon to move regular second baseman Ben Zobrist to the outfield during the playoffs just to get Baez in the game.

Javier Baez has a love for the game that goes way back to when he was a little boy in Puerto Rico. That same passion that he had as a boy still burns inside of him every time he takes the field. It’s so much fun to watch a guy like Baez play the game the way he does everyday. At 23 years old, he still has 10-12 years of playing time left.

Tuesday, the Cubs will appear in their first World Series since 1945. No doubt we will see Mr. Baez at second base doing what he loves; playing his heart out for nine innings and doing anything it takes to ensure a Cubs victory. Speaking of victories, the Cubs are only four away from a World Series title that would be their first in over 100 years. With Javier Baez around for the foreseeable future, who knows how many World Series titles the Cubbies can win.