Javier Baez has been on a real hot streak for Tennessee, lofting seven homers in his last 10 games. But with almost 50 percent of his Double-A at-bats resulting in home runs or strikeouts, the Cubs are looking for ways to cut down the latter while not adversely affecting the former.
Chicago's top prospect hit a pair of two-run homers in the Smokies' 8-5 loss to the Birmingham Barons on Sunday evening at Smokies Park.
"[Baez] has got bat speed and power in some ways like Gary Sheffield -- when I saw that swing -- and he lets it fly somewhat like [Dustin] Pedroia does in Boston," Smokies manager Buddy Bailey said.
Baez has seven homers in his last 10 games and a pair of two-homer outings in his past four contests, but Bailey and hitting coach Desi Wilson are working with the native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on not trying to do too much in every count.
"If you're a world-class sprinter and you can win the race in 10.3 seconds, then you don't have to burn all your energy in 9.8," Bailey said. "As long as you're winning the race, that's all that matters."
The shortstop has 10 homers in 20 games in the Southern League since being promoted from Class A Advanced Daytona of the Florida State League. He has also whiffed 32 times in 82 at-bats, including three times Sunday.
"He's so gifted that I don't think he realizes if he backs up a little, he'll still have home run power and for sure gap power," Bailey said. "[He needs to focus on] hitting the ball in play more and the number of strikeouts per at-bat. He's got to be more disciplined and realize 'I'm down 0-2, 1-2, or whatever,' and give the pitcher a little bit of credit."
The 20-year-old had 12 steals for Daytona, but was caught stealing in his only attempted theft thus far for Tennessee.
"He hasn't hit any singles," said Bailey, who added that Baez has the green light on the basepaths. "He hasn't been on first base very often, he's usually jogging or hitting doubles, and his walks have been when other guys are in front of him."
Baez is also focusing on his defense at short. He made 31 errors for a .922 fielding percentage in Daytona, but has three errors and a .969 mark since his promotion.
"He's been really solid. He had a bunch of errors down in Daytona, but he's played really solid defense with us," Bailey said. "Two nights ago, he had a game where he had to go up the middle and field some choppers and slow rollers.
"He also doesn't use his arm at short as much, but he's got a plus arm that plays. When he needs it, he will show it."
Justin Bour, who protects Baez in the Smokies lineup from the cleanup spot, went 1-for-4. The first baseman had gone deep in the four previous games and in six of his previous eight. Chicago's No. 10 prospect Matt Szczur smacked a pair of singles and No. 14 prospect Christian Villanueva singled and walked twice.