The Chicago Cubs have some of the most highly-touted prospects in baseball, but arguably the biggest at the moment isn’t going to be donning a uniform for the North Siders any time soon.
That’s because Kris Bryant, who currently has 19 HR and 51 RBI for the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate in West Tennessee, likely won’t be called up by the team despite his torrid hitting. His OPS is a completely ludicrous 1.160, and his slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging) is a remarkable .353/.460/.700. Those numbers are essentially video game numbers, but Bryant is proving that his prodigious power is all too real.
GM Jed Hoyer is excited about the numbers, calling them “fun to see,” but as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported last night, it’s all but certain that Bryant will not get a big league call-up this season.
“We probably want to see him there a little longer,” Hoyer told Levine. “He has only spent two months at that level, and he has been skipping through the system without a lot of time at one level.”
Levine also added this statement to the end of his piece:
“Sources indicated the Cubs want Bryant to hone his skills for an entire minor league season.”
This kind of attitude isn’t one that’s likely to sit well with the Cubs’ legion of doubters (you listening, Mr. Telander?), but if one is looking at it from a purely logical standpoint, then it’s obvious why the team would want to wait. They’re currently in last place in the NL Central, and calling Bryant up into this quagmire would put way too much pressure on him and could potentially hurt his development. Hoyer and Theo Epstein have both said that they feel like they rushed Anthony Rizzo to the big leagues, and they don’t want to repeat that mistake with Bryant.
It’s a completely understandable emotion, and one that makes strategic sense. Letting the youngster get more seasoning, especially in the field, is a smart idea, and in the end it will make him a more well-rounded player.
As spring training has worn on, and as shortstop Starlin Castro has continued to sit out games with a hamstring injury, more and more fans have been asking about whether or not Javier Baez could potentially make the Chicago Cubs’ opening day roster. His four home runs in Cactus League play (including one in Surprise on Tuesday night) have done little to pour water on those rumors, but Cubs GM Jed Hoyer did just that on Wednesday morning.
In a radio interview with David Kaplan and David Haugh, Hoyer said that the team will start Baez out with the triple-A Iowa Cubs this season, but did acknowledge that fans of the team have every reason to be excited:
Hoyer on Baez ascent to majors: “Cubs fans will see him soon enough but it’s not going to be Opening Day.”
— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) March 19, 2014
Baez has been bouncing around the field a bit for the Cubs in spring training, with manager Rick Renteria looking to work him out at several positions. He has played some games at shortstop, but this week he has also been getting some time at second base. Hoyer added in the interview that Baez will start at shortstop for the Iowa Cubs, but that he could still see a bit of action at second base once their season starts in April.
As for the Cubs’ current situation at the position, there’s no telling if Castro will actually be ready when the season begins at the end of the month. He still hasn’t gotten into a game since pulling his hamstring, and he said that he would likely need 8-10 games in order to get fully prepared for the regular season. The Cubs only have 11 games left (12 if you count split squad action), so Castro is getting close to a point where he may not be able to get his preferred warm-up time before the grueling 162-slate begins.
Even with that in mind however, the Cubs are still making the right choice when it comes to sending Baez to the minors. He is arguably the top prospect in their farm system, but with the team not really poised to do much of anything this season, it doesn’t make sense to burn a year of arbitration eligibility just to have a starting shortstop for a week or two while Castro gets ready for the season. Starting Darwin Barney or Donnie Murphy in that spot makes a lot more sense as a short-term solution rather than starting the clock on Baez’s MLB service time, and Hoyer is right to exercise patience with one of his prized assets.