And so it begins for us Chicago Cubs fans. Yes, the topic of this post is bias because of the fact that I am a die-hard Cubs fan. However, the content of this post is very much a baseball topic that the entire baseball world will be looking at, is this finally it? Everyone knows what “it” is, if you are a Cubs fan. “It” has escaped us for over a 100 years. “It” is the longest drought in all professional sports. “It” is one of the biggest conversations in baseball year in and year out. It is because of “it” that we are talking about him today. For those of you that do not know what “it” is yet, “it” is the World Series.
It is no surprise to anyone familiar with baseball that the Cubs are the “Loveable Losers” not having won the World Series in over 100 years. Sure there have been moments over that span where it looked like it was possible, (cough, 2003, cough), but still it eludes us. After being very poor over the last few seasons the Cubs looked to start anew. However, they decided to go in a different direction with their rebuild process. They decided to not look to buy big names and spend loads of cash, because they are short-term answers. No, the Cubs want to be relevant for the long-term, which is why they brought in the man above, Theo Epstein.
Everyone knows who Theo is after what he did in Boston. Sure in 2004 he was handed that team and only had to make a few adjustments to make them World Series Champions and break the 2nd longest drought in all of sports. But it is the 2007 and 2013 World Series that the Red Sox won that made his name. Theo is an expert at farm systems. He loves and wants to build from the ground up, and to do that a team needs prospects. Not only is it cheaper, but it helps with trades for big names as well. Prospects are the foundation of true champions, just ask the Cardinals, and it is through a good farm system that teams see long-term success. That is what Theo did in Boston, and that is what he is now doing with the Cubs.
2008 was the last time we saw the Chicago Cubs in the post-season. 2009 we barely missed the post-season, and since then it has truly been a grueling process. It has been five years since the Cubs have reached the post-season, and each year it hurts more. In 2010, we were under .500, in 2011 we slipped further down. We needed a change and that is when Theo came to the Cubs organization. He said it would not happen over night, that it would take time and we needed to be patient. But, we have been patient for over 100 years, we want results. 2012, Theo’s first year, the Cubs lost over 100 games. It looked like nothing was working, and in 2013 we barely lost less than 100 games again. But patience was preached, we got a new manager, Rick Renteria, we have prospects that are lighting up the minors and we have a Cubs team that is bad, but not horrible. Progress is being shown, things look like they are coming around, but the true test is when the young guns come up, and that true test starts today.
For those of you that do not know who this is, this is Javier “Javy” Baez. He is currently the 2nd ranked prospect in the Cubs farm system and is the 5th ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He currently has the best upside of all prospects when it comes to offense, and if you don’t believe me here is his stat line from last year between Class A+ and Double AA:
- .282 AVG/.341 OBP/.578 SLG/34 Doubles/111 RBIs/37 HR
Oh, and did I forget to mention that he is a middle infielder? Baez’s 37 HR lead all the minors and to see that kind of production from a middle infielder is not something you see everyday. To give you a comparison, only Troy Tulowitzki can say that he has that kind of mixture of power and average as a middle infielder in the MLB this year.
Baez was on the fast track to being called up at the beginning of 2014, but Theo did not want him to come up just yet. Theo wants his young players to experience adversity in the minors so that way they are better equipped to handle it at the major league level. Boy did Baez experience that at the beginning of this year. To start the year, Baez was very cold. His stat line between April-May 14 looked like this:
- .147 AVG/.237 OBP/ .265 SLG/1 Double/11 RBIs/3 HR
Baez was struggling, and struggling hard. People were beginning to question his ability and if he would instead end up like Brett Jackson. However, since May 15, up until now, Baez has figured it out and began to play like himself. Since May 15, Baez has this stat line:
- .301 AVG/.353 OBP/.598 SLG/23 Doubles/69 RBIs/20 HR
Baez has now tripled his hot streak, compared to his beginning of the year cold streak and he looks better because of it. His strikeout numbers are down, walks are up and the other night he had 2 walks to go along with 2 HRs. All of this has led to the Cubs calling him up and he will be starting at 2nd base for them for the foreseeable future.
Do you remember the “him” that I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well him, is Javier Baez and it is because of him that the baseball world is wondering, is it the Cubs time? No one prospect can save an organization and bring them to winning a World Series title, but with Baez he is the beginning of what is to come. Baez is one of the numerous prospects in the Cubs system that will be getting called up over the next few years and will be helping the Cubs make a run at the title. Now that the first domino has fallen, the likes of Bryant, Soler, Almora, etc. will not be far behind. Baez is the face of this new future the Cubs are heading into, and that future starts tonight. What it will look like, only time can tell. But for now, the entirety of the baseball world, and especially Cubs fans are wondering, is this finally it?
Thanks for reading!
All stats and information courtesy of espn.com, mlb.com, baseball-reference.com, fangraphs.com and wikipedia.org