The Cubs held Javier Baez back a little while before he made his Class A debut, but the slugging shortstop is playing like he's been around for a while.
Chicago's No. 3 prospect went 3-for-5 with a home run, triple and a career-high four RBIs on Saturday as Peoria posted a 9-8, 10-inning win over Bowling Green.
Baez tied a personal best for hits and eclipsed the career high he established when he drove in three runs on June 2. It also game him a 10-game hitting streak, his first double-digit run as a professional.
The 19-year-old tripled in the second inning and reached on an error in the fourth. His three-run homer off Hot Rods starter Parker Markel capped a five-run fifth inning that gave the Chiefs a 7-3 lead. He reached on an infield single in the seventh.
Needing a double to hit for the cycle, Baez nearly ended the game in the ninth. With one out and Paul Hoilman on first base, the native of Puerto Rico hit a drive the opposite way to right-center field that was tracked down by right fielder Drew Vettleson.
"He put a good swing on it and gave it a pretty good ride," Chiefs manager Casey Kopitzke said. "That outfielder made a pretty good catch and certainly had to cover a lot of ground to get there."
Despite missing a potential walk-off by mere feet, the ninth overall pick in last year's Draft raised his average to .319, the highest it's been since June 7 (his 10th game of the season). Through his first 39 games in the Midwest League, Baez has eight homers, 19 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. His .945 OPS would rank second in the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
"He's done a lot of positive things since he came here," Kopitzke said. "He's really a talented individual. He's a little bit more advanced than you'd think for someone his age, that's for sure. Just his ability to drive to all fields, get the bat on the ball when he needs to, run, field, he's further along than where you'd think."
That doesn't mean Baez still doesn't have room to grow. In an infamous incident on June 2, MLB.com's No. 51 overall prospect swung at a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a 15-2 game and was plunked in the side on the very next pitch. Now, more than a month later, his skipper chalked it up as a learning experience.
"Every day, there's something you can learn from," Kopitzke said. "I really can't put a finger on one thing he hasn't done well for us. He's so open and eager to coaching and pays attention to everything we try to bring to him. He's a real good student of the game."
Chadd Krist's RBI single in the 10th inning gave the Chiefs a walk-off win. The designated hitter finished 3-for-6 with two runs scored.
Todd Glaesmann was 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs for the Hot Rods.