The Rundown: Baez Could Start Season in AAA, Soto Signs Minor-League Deal with White Sox, Schwarber is No. 3 Catching Prospect
Jed Hoyer said during last weekend’s Cubs Convention that Javier Baez will have to earn his playing time this season. Joe Maddon will not be penciling Baez’s name into the lineup every day just because he’s Javier Baez.
Still, is there a chance the young infielder could start the year at Triple-A Iowa? Unless he has a huge Spring Training, that may be the case, according to Jon Morosi.
Morosi notes that he has heard that Baez’s two-strike approach in Winter Ball hasn’t improved from last season’s stint in the major leagues. In two games in Puerto Rico since the Convention, Baez has gone 0-for-9 with six strikeouts.
I suppose if the Cubs feel he still needs work, it would make sense for him to get regular at-bats down in the minors, as opposed to sitting on the bench and getting the occasional start in Chicago.
It’s not a foregone conclusion or anything that Baez will start next year in Triple-A. He very well could win the Opening Day second base job, and I hope he does.
Carrie Muskat writes about Baez’s strong work ethic, and she says he is still projected as the 2015 starting second baseman. But as Hoyer said, “He has to make more contact to stay in the big leagues.”
If the Cubs decide he could use some extra time to work out a few kinks at Iowa, they do have back-up options in Tommy La Stella and Arismendy Alcantara. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Soto to the South Side
I think it’s safe to say the White Sox are exploring all options when it comes to finding a backup catcher. Former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto signed a minor-league deal with the South Siders yesterday.
He’ll compete for the opportunity to back up Tyler Flowers, but won’t be without competition. The Sox have brought in a number of catchers this offseason, including another former (albeit briefly) Cub, George Kottaras.
I actually think Soto has a good chance at grabbing the spot, however. He has become more of a defensive catcher over the years, but I think he can still help a team.
Going off on a tangent, I’d say my favorite Soto memory with the Cubs was his go-ahead two-run homer in Game 2 of the 2007 Division Series against the Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately, the memory is tainted by the Cubs promptly giving the lead right back (this was the “Ted Lilly slamming his glove on the ground after giving up a HR to Chris Young” game).
* Kyle Schwarber is MLBPipeline.com’s No. 3 catching prospect. He comes in behind Boston’s Blake Swihart and Texas’ Jorge Alfaro. Jim Callis, who put together the list, notes Schwarber has the highest offensive ceiling of the bunch, but that he is also the most likely to move from behind the plate at some point. In case you missed it, Mark Jablonowski wrote a great piece on Schwarber likely being an untouchable prospect for the Cubs. I’d have to agree, especially if the Cubs really think Schwarber will be able to contribute as a catcher — even if it’s only part-time.
* According to Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma, Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada may conduct a private workout for the Cubs this weekend. Basically in everything written about the subject, the Cubs are said to be very interested in Moncada. If the Cubs truly believe he’s a piece they need, perhaps they will be able to convince him to wait until July 2 to sign. From the amount of interest I’ve read about, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs at least give it a try.