MWL notes: Cubs patient with Baez

Chiefs shortstop adjusting to Midwest League, breaking balls

Javier Baez is batting .294 in his first 14 Class A games. (Dennis Sievers/Peoria Chiefs )

By Curt Rallo / Special to | June 14, 2012 6:57 AM ET

The numbers are astonishing. As a high school senior last year, Javier Baez hit .771 (64-for-83) with 22 homers, 20 doubles and six triples at Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla. The shortstop also stole 28 bases.

So it's no doubt that the Cubs -- who drafted Baez in the first round of the 2011 Draft, making him the No. 9 pick overall and second shortstop selected -- would treat the 19-year-old like a jeweler shining a precious stone.

When Cubs players broke camp after Spring Training, Baez didn't head to Peoria and instead was sent to work out at the team's complex in Arizona. In fact, he didn't play his first game for the Chiefs until Memorial Day.

"There's an old adage, it's a lot easier to move somebody up than to move them back," Cubs vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita said. "You're talking about a young man from the state of Florida. It's real cold in Peoria. We wanted to make sure he had his feet on the ground. It's his first season. When you're dealing with your top prospect, you want to be on the conservative side."

Fleita said that the Cubs explained the process to Baez, and that he understood and accepted it well.

"Javier understood why he didn't go to Peoria right away," Fleita said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-handed hitter. "He understands we have a process set up and that we'll follow it to the letter. Being in Arizona, in a controlled atmosphere, allowed him to get a good handle on what's expected every day from the organization, and it gave us a chance to get to know him. He also got a lot of extra work, and that allowed him to be prepared to join the Peoria Chiefs."

So far, Baez has adjusted well -- through 15 games, Baez was batting .315 with two homers and eight RBIs.

"When you're in Arizona, and you don't have the long bus trips that they have in the Midwest League, you don't lose any travel time," Fleita added. "You can get extra time getting a whole lot more ground balls, swinging, working on double plays and working on the finer points of a game. He got a whole lot of extra attention from coaches in a lot of different areas of the game."

Baez said that he made good use of his time in Arizona.

"I was working hard in Arizona, so I could come to Peoria and kept working for the team," Baez said. "I just keep hitting the ball like I'm hitting and working on my swing. I realize there are more people before me. I was just relaxing and doing my job. I was working on hitting the ball to the right side."

Now that he's in Peoria, he's still working on fine-tuning his swing and approach.

"It's different here than what I faced in Arizona," Baez said. "Here, they throw more breaking balls and mix it up. It's not hard, but every time I sit on the fastball, but the pitchers mix it up a lot. I'm still learning the game. My goal is to keep learning and [to] try to do my best."

In brief

Walk-off, take two: The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers put a bite on the Beloit Snappers in their last at-bat -- twice -- and each time the hero was Yadiel Rivera. The 20-year-old shortstop belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-2 victory. The next night, he delivered an RBI single in the ninth for an 8-7 win as the Rattlers rallied from a 6-2 deficit.

Simmons sizzles: South Bend reliever Seth Simmons had his scoreless streak snapped Tuesday when he gave up three runs against Lake County. Simmons, who hadn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances (15 1/3 innings), does have a home scoreless streak still intact. He hasn't given up a run at Coveleski Stadium all season (14 1/3 innings), and has only yielded runs in two of the 19 games in which he's pitched. Simmons, a 5-foot-9 righty from Winston-Salem, N.C., was a 40th-round pick last summer.

Diamond value: The Dayton's Dragons are the most valuable Class A franchise and the eighth-most valuable franchise in all of Minor League Baseball, according to Forbes. (The most valuable franchise is the Sacramento River Cats.) Valued at $23 million, the Dragons own the record for professional sports' longest consecutive sellout streak, having sold out every home game in its 13-season history at 7,230-seat Fifth Third Field.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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