Exit Interviews – The Rest Of The Infield
Figure it’s best just to wrap up those bit-part players that made up the infield. So let’s do that.
I’ve made no secret of my affection for Javy, simply because the excitement level with him is as high as any other player on the team. It was obviously an incredibly unlucky and trying year for Baez. Didn’t make the team out of camp, death of his sister, and just about the time he recovered from that and was mere days away from a call-up he broke a finger that delayed his call-up two months to September 1st. Even if this year was just about development for him, and there’s still plenty to work on, you’d have to call it a wash at best. He barely had half a season in Triple-A and on Clark St. combined.
What that brief glimpse in September did show is that simply with just the glove, Baez is a valuable piece to have. Baez played 2nd, short, and 3rd and looked pretty flawless in all of them, at least during the regular season. He looked more at home at 3rd than Bryant did at times, and he hadn’t played it before this season. Joe Maddon was clearly drawing cartoon hearts around his name in the lineup, such was his defensive flexibility. Baez was worth half a win in just 28 games, and extrapolating that out over a full season has him a 2-3 WAR player simply for his glove, as that’s pretty much all he provided this season.
Of course, it’s at the plate that has Cubs fans excited and yet confounded. There was a new approach, with a closed stance and less of a leg-kick at times with Javy, but the results weren’t too much different. He only had one homer in the regular season, and still struck out 30% of the time while his walks were still around 5%. Again, a sample of 28 games is hardly anything to draw conclusions over, especially when it produced only 80 sporadic PAs. We saw in the minors that he had a more solid two-strike approach, and we simply didn’t get enough time to know if it would translate to the majors.
It’s clear that Javy doesn’t have much left to prove in Iowa. His .900+ OPS there again this year shows that. We know that no matter what he does at the plate he can provide something at three positions, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he gets some reps in the outfield in Mesa. His athleticism and feel for the game should make even that a smooth transition, you would think.
Will he ever come close to the offensive weapon we dream of? I honestly have no idea and I don’t know if the Cubs have any idea either. He put up a decent average in the playoffs, but again no conclusions can be drawn from that. Either way the Cubs won’t be giving up on him. While his name will be in trade rumors all winter, if he’s moved it won’t be because the Cubs think there’s no hope but because he’s bringing back something they need. He’ll still only be 23 when next season starts. The limits still seem awfully high. I hope we can see them here.
Tommy La Stella
I found it kind of funny that in the middle of the season La Stella was always mentioned in a list of things the Cubs were overcoming, being injured as he was. Though he was part of the plans, there was hardly any solid evidence on what he could provide. And really, we still don’t know.
La Stella came back, and he definitely did hit from the left side. I know the Cubs valued that. Anything beyond that I couldn’t tell you. He had a habit of lining pitches the opposite way, which was nice. He hit for basically no power, but he didn’t strike out. He played a serviceable 2nd base but I don’t think you’d want to put him at 3rd any more than you had to without making a face. I look at La Stella and think it’s just another term for “a guy.” He’ll be 27 when next season begins, is he really going to blossom into more than this? He provides the Cubs with flexibility in that they can insert a lefty bat and move some other pieces around and know he won’t set his eyebrows on fire out there, but that’s about it. A 5th infielder looks to be his calling in life. It’s not a bad gig if you can get it. Though I like that he look perpetually angry.