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Baez goes 5-for-6, drives in six runs06/01/2013 11:54 PM ET
By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com
You can dream about Javier Baez's bat speed. This week, Daytona manager Dave Keller has seen the 20-year-old infielder tap into his talent and the results have been something special.
"That's a beautiful thing," Keller said, "when you get up there and you have your balance and you swing at good pitches. That gives him a chance to get his ability out there."
Baez, Chicago's top-ranked prospect, put that ability on display Saturday night, setting career highs with five hits -- including three doubles -- and six RBIs as the Cubs crushed visiting Brevard County, 14-5.
The shortstop, ranked 15th among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, also homered, giving him three longballs in his last five games.
The results have followed as Baez has continued to make strides with pitch recognition and controlling his aggressive swing. The 6-foot, 195-pounder uses a leg kick as a timing device and tilts the bat forward as he loads his hands, generating tremendous bat speed but also making it difficult to maintain his balance.
He's controlled his movements well for the past week, allowing him to see the ball more clearly and get into a more efficient hitting position.
"It's slowing down so your eyes can focus on the ball easier," Keller said. "Your head isn't moving everywhere and your eyes aren't changing levels."
Baez has continued to make strides with that this season and, of late, Keller thinks that's the biggest key in unlocking his tremendous power potential.
The right-handed hitter raised his average 17 points to .277 with the five-hit effort. The homer was his ninth of the season after he slugged 16 in 80 games across two levels last year.
Baez played 23 games at Daytona at the end of the season, batting .188 with a .644 OPS. Pitch recognition, as is generally the case with teenagers, was a focal point for Baez then and still is now. By tailoring his swing to limit his head movement, Keller and the Cubs hope the Puerto Rico native can continue to identify and obliterate balls like he did Saturday.
"Power has never been an issue with this guy," Keller said. "He has plenty of power and plenty of bat speed and he's been patient and he's been getting good pitches to hit.
"He hasn't been chasing pitches out of the strike zone and he's been keeping himself under control. He's taking nice, tension-free swings. When that happens, the ball jumps off his bat."
Baez has been in the three-hole for Daytona most of the season, and the teammate hitting cleanup -- Jorge Soler -- has garnered just as much attention. The Cubs' No. 3 prospect also homered against the Manatees, giving him eight on the year. He raised his average to .295 and his OPS to .876 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
That duo has paired with Dustin Geiger to form a heart of the order that's one of the league's most potent. The 21-year-old Geiger doubled twice Saturday and is hitting .311 with an .866 OPS.
"I don't think you just talk about Javier and Jorge," Keller said. "Everybody knows these guys have ability and are high-profile guys, and there are high expectations with them. I have high expectations for Geiger [and the rest of the lineup]."
Keller singled out Ben Carhart in particular after the 23-year-old third baseman went 3-for-6 with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. Carhart is hitting .269 while filling out the left side of the infield next to Baez.
"When you have those extra guys that are complementing what Javy and Jorge are doing," Keller said, "you have some really neat things that could be happening offensively."