Javier Baez is one of the more enigmatic players, not only for the Cubs, but in all of MLB as well. How should fantasy owners value him heading into 2018?
A key part of the Cubs’ recent success is their young core and veteran presences. A key member of that core, Javier Baez, has certainly made a name for himself since joining the majors in 2014. On the heels of solid back-to-back seasons, yet some ugly underlying stats, what should fantasy owners expect from him in 2018?
Let us first look at the positives. He ended 2017 with a .273/23 HR/75 RBI/10 SB/.796 OPS/75 R line over 145 games. Among all MI, Baez finished top-8 in HR, top-15 in RBI, top-24 in R, and one of only nine MI to post 20+ HR/10 SB. He maintained a 36% FB rate, and great 46% Med and 32% Hard contact rates.
Outside of a rough April, Baez did not post lower than a .250 AVG in any month, nor less than a .721 OPS. He fared well versus LHP, .315/9 HR/32 RBI/.934 OPS, and RHP, .258/14 HR/43 RBI/.747 OPS.
Baez stayed consistent for most of the season, squared the ball up pretty well, and posted a line that gave owners an advantage at the MI spot.
Now in terms of the negatives. Baez swings at everything, and then some. He notched a 28% K rate, 66% Contact rate, and ghastly 45% Chase rate. he also saw his LD rate dip by 4%, and his GB rate rise 4%, a concerning development in his profile.
With a guy that chases a ton of pitches out of the zone, he only saw 40% of pitches thrown his way in the strike zone last year, seeing the LD dip is a certain detraction in his value.
His approach at the plate also stuffs him at the end of the lineup. He saw most of his at-bats in either the seventh or eighth spot of the order in 2017, opening a window into where the Cubs think he can handle. Fortunately, the RBI help is there but when he could be hypothetically hitting in front or around Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, there is untapped potential.
So this is where owners have to sift through and deduce what value Baez holds. He is currently being selected 129 overall, and just outside the top-80 hitters. A MI that can off a .270/25 HR/70 RBI/15 SB is certainly worth a selection within the top-100 hitters.
Yet, the floor for Baez is lower than what owners think. His .345 BABIP helped fuel his AVG some and is it not as though Baez will morph into a patient hitter overnight. I think owners should expect more of a .260/20 HR/65 RBI/10 SB line, thus knocking him down closer to the top-100 mark instead of around the 80’s.