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FSL notes: Baez makes it look easy
Cubs shortstop, top prospect heating up as season rolls on
07/03/2013 6:00 AM ET
Javier Baez leads the FSL with 17 homers and 57 runs scored.
Javier Baez leads the FSL with 17 homers and 57 runs scored. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

As the top prospect of a rebuilding team, Javier Baez is under constant scrutiny from Chicago Cubs fans. Often lost, though, is that the Daytona shortstop is just 20 years old and still very much a work in progress.

"There's so much attention now that we don't allow players to be kids anymore," Daytona manager Dave Keller said. "No matter how much talent they have, they have to grow up so they can handle the adversity of the game. They need to go through the ups and downs."

Baez, ranked No. 15 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, has had to do that this season in the Florida State League and should be better for it.

"I'm learning to play the game right," said the ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft. "Baseball isn't easy."

Baez, though, can make it look like that at times, as when he hit four homers and drove in seven runs in a game against Fort Myers on June 10.

But he had just one hit in the 20 at-bats that followed, and endured an early-season 3-for-26 slump that left him hitting .133 in the middle of April.

"They are working with me to slow things down and not guess at the plate," Baez said. "I'm ready to hit the first good fastball, but I can't chase pitches out of the strike zone."

Baez's bat speed is nearly unmatched, but he has to make his aggressiveness work for him rather than against him. With an impressive June, the native of Puerto Rico has made strides against Class A Advanced pitchers.

Baez hit .300 for the month to get his average to .272, and his nine June homers gave him the FSL lead with 17. He topped the league with 57 runs scored and was fourth with the same number of RBIs after driving in 28 runs over 24 games in June.

But Baez has also struck out 76 times, compared to 18 walks, and he had one stretch where all of his six hits were homers. Everybody who sees Baez, though, comes away convinced that he can be a potent Major League hitter. His ability to play shortstop at that level is more uncertain, despite his strong arm and good hands.

Baez, who received a bonus of $2.65 million after graduating from Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., committed 31 errors in his first 73 games. He was more steady in June, committing seven errors after being charged with 12 in each of the first two months.

"I'm working on my footwork and making better throws," he said. "I like shortstop, but I'd play anywhere the Cubs want me."

With Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect, sidelined with a stress fracture in his leg, even more attention is on Baez in Daytona.

"I don't think about it," said Baez, who hit .298 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 17 Cactus League games for the Cubs during Spring Training. "I have to do my job, just like every player."

Few players, though, have Baez's potential, which is why so many eyes are on him.

"His instincts and his feel for the game are way, way ahead of most players his age," Keller said. "Combine that with his talent, and you've got something special. He's got a chance to be really, really good."

In brief

Quick adjustment Center fielder Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 Draft by Minnesota, finished June with consecutive multi-hit games and was batting .333 after his first five outings with Fort Myers following a promoted from Class A Cedar Rapids. He was 3-for-3 with a double, stolen base and three runs scored Sunday against St. Lucie. Buxton, 19, is the Twins' No. 2 prospect and is ranked No. 18 on MLB.com's Top 100. He hit .341 with 33 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases for Cedar Rapids.

Red hot: Lakeland right fielder Steven Moya had four straight two-hit games to wrap up a 10-game stretch in which he was 18-for-41 with four homers, a triple, five doubles and 13 RBIs. The hot streak raised the average of Detroit's No. 10 prospect to .271, and he had five homers and 22 RBIs in 39 games. Moya, 21, spent part of April and May on the disabled list. He hit .288 in 59 games for West Michigan in the Class A Midwest League last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

On the run: Dunedin second baseman Jon Berti dropped from 18 stolen bases in May to seven in June, but he still led the Florida State League with 33 steals in 73 games. He had been caught nine times. Berti, 23, stole 34 bases last season -- 26 with Lansing of the Class A Midwest League and eight with Dunedin. The 18th-round choice by Toronto in the 2011 Draft is batting .260.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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