Mets should not pursue Javier Baez

baezDuring Sunday’s matchup with the Chicago Cubs, the chatter in the SNY booth turned at one point toward the minor league systems of both the Mets and Cubs.  This is understandable, as both teams are largely out of the playoff hunt (barring any miracles) and possess top-5 rated systems.

Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez mentioned how the Mets and Cubs seemed to be good trading partners, because of the Mets’ abundance of pitching, and the Cubs’ plentiful bats.  One of them, though I forget who, even went so far as to call the four-game series a “scouting series” for the teams to scope out potential players to acquire.

For the past several months, there has been quite a bit of speculation and pleading that the Mets should try t work something out with the Cubs to acquire one of their young shortstops.  For a while it was either Starlin Castro or Javier Baez, and the addition of Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija trade further fueled that speculation.

While Baez has made quite the splash since breaking into the majors at the end of July, there is a lot of reason to be wary of Baez, and not trade a top-flight pitching prospect like Noah Syndergaard to bring him to Flushing.

Yes, the power is there, there’s no doubt about that, but where Baez is severely lacking is in his plate discipline and contact ability.

Frequently throughout the first three games of this series, Baez has chased pitches out of the strike zone, many times on balls that were nowhere near the zone.  Baseball Info Solutions has Baez’s O-Swing% at 45.8%, compared to a league average of 30.9%.

Baez’s Brooks Baseball page is almost comical.  They describe his batting eye against fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed pitches as: “a very poor eye,” “an exceptionally poor eye,” and “a poor eye.”  Ouch.

The two walks he drew on Sunday were the first two walks of his MLB career in 57 plate appearances.

Now, before you start saying that this is all in a small sample size, what is available of his minor league numbers shows the exact same thing.  He never really put up decent walk numbers until this season in the minors, and even his 7.8% rate in AAA this year is average at best, and can nowhere near make up for the biggest flaw in Baez’s game: his strikeout rate.

Baez has struck out in 38.6% of his PA this year in the majors, 30% in AAA this year, and 28.8% in AA last year.

To put that in perspective, here are Baez’s K-rates in his first year, AAA, and AA compared to the three players responsible for the top three strikeout seasons in MLB history: Chris Carter, Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds:

AA AAA Rookie Year Career High
Javier Baez 28.8% 30% 38.6% N/A
Chris Carter 20.1% 24.1% 26.9% 36.2%
Adam Dunn 18.4% 20.1% 25.9% 35.7%
Mark Reynolds 20.6% DNP 31.2% 35.4%

Those are some ugly numbers, but the precautionary tale remains the same; Baez’s high strikeout totals should be a significant concern of the Mets if they are to consider a move for him.

Obviously, this is not to imply that Baez never can improve upon his plate discipline, or that he’s destined to become a three (or in his case, two) true outcomes player, but is somebody with this level of contact and plate discipline struggles really a player for whom you want to surrender a top-flight pitching prospect?  I don’t think so.

If the Mets are going to trade for one of the Cubs’ young shortstops, Castro and Russell are the clear top options, and Baez shouldn’t be considered if the asking price is a top five prospect.

Joe Vasile is a broadcaster with ESPN Radio in Williamsport, PA.

13 comments for “Mets should not pursue Javier Baez

  1. Rev.Al
    August 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

    buyer beware !

    ;-) not to give any top prospect for Baez.

  2. August 18, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Oh, come on. You do realize that he’s 21 years old and has played a total of 13 ML ballgames. And that he’s been extremely young for his level every step of the way?

    Last year at AA he hit .294/.346/.638 with 20 HR in 218 ABs. At A+, that same season, he hit .274/.338/.535 for a season total of 34 HRs and 111 RBI.

    At age 20.

    And you are ready to dismiss that because he lacks plate discipline? What did you think of young Jose Reyes, I wonder?

    To me, I’m interested if Baez can actually play a quality SS. Obviously, he’s extremely raw, with real flaws. He will struggle and lot terrible at times. But the talent is incredible. He’s hit 4 HRs already.

    I certainly would not dismiss him so quickly. Though I agree that he doesn’t seem like a Sandy Alderson-type guy.

    FWIW, Mets are 2nd in NL in BB; 14th in SLG. Not sure that more plate discipline is what they need right now.

    • Joe Vasile
      August 18, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I never deny that his power potential is certainly there.

      As far as a young Jose Reyes goes, he didn’t strike out nearly 40% of the time he came up to the plate…It was 13.5% in his highest season back in 2005, still well below league average.

      If Baez is going to hit .300 you can live with the low walk numbers and OBP (ala Daniel Murphy), especially if that comes with power at a position where power is at an extreme premium. The problem is he can’t hit for that high average if he has major contact issues. I would not trade Syndergaard for Baez. I obviously don’t know what kind of player Baez will turn into but there are so many warning signs, a significant package where he’s the only return would be not good.

      And the Mets are 23rd in OBP, 29th in SLG, and 29th in wOBA in the MLB. What they need is simply better overall hitters. There is plenty of reason to believe Russell and Castro will be better overall than Baez. If you’re going to give up a top prospect, get the better player.

      • Jerry Grote
        August 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        I can’t argue that Russell and Castro are better objects of our affection than Javier Baez, especially if the goal is a starting SS.

        But simply put – Sandy won’t give up what it takes to get yourself into a horse race for Russell (who the Cubs aren’t moving anyways) and especially, not for Castro.

        I think you’re dreaming here. Baez is what you can afford, and if the guy gets fifteen more walks between here and the end of the season, you might not be able to afford him either. Let’s remember that the Mets best trading chip is the
        4th
        fourth
        as in, not even the top 3
        right handed pitching prospect with some injuries in his past already that lists as the 12th best prospect in baseball. And not to forget, prospect ratings are hardly linear.

        This is typical of armchair analysts. You find a flaw in a player, elevate it, and reject the stack of evidence around the guy. If Baez didn’t strike out 30% of the time, he wouldn’t be showing you 40 HR power at 21 in the ML at 2B or SS. And if didn’t strike out that much, there wouldn’t be any discussions to be had.

        The worst case scenario for Baez is Dan Uggla with a glove. Like someone else here – if the Cubbies take Noah straight up for Baez, you offer to pay for the transportation costs to complete the deal.

        • Jerry Grote
          August 18, 2014 at 5:02 pm

          post script: that comment about “armchair analyst” wasn’t meant as a jibe at Joe. I have offered up props more than once on his writing here and asked for his opinion quite often as well.

        • Patrick Albanesius
          August 18, 2014 at 10:43 pm

          You seem to be undervaluing Syndergaard, and the rest of the farm for that matter. They are now consistently ranked in/around the top 5 in all of baseball. You get that with quantity as well as quality. Your points regarding Syndergaard and Baez are both valid, but the Mets have a rare opportunity to be able to trade for just about anybody they want during the off-season. But I must agree that I don’t think Baez is worth it. Right now at least.

  3. Steve L
    August 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I’d trade Syndergaard for Baez straight up in a heartbeat. I’m guessing the Cubs would balk at the offer, so it’s really a question of what else it would take. If they’d take Thor, Montero, and Plawecki…yeah, probably. But if they want Thor + Wheeler or Nimmo then I’d rather pass.

    From the rumors I’ve read, it sounds like both teams value their own prospects more than the other’s prospects (which is pretty common in these situations), so a deal is unlikely.

    • Jerry Grote
      August 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Frick. That was you I was agreeing with? I need to reconsider my opinion on Baez.

  4. Name
    August 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I actually don’t think those are great comps for Baez.
    The knock on Baez is that he strikes out a lot and he can’t take a walk, like you said no eye.
    The guys on that list are usually very patient hitters, and strike out as a result of working a lot of deep counts.

    I would think that looking at SO/BB would be the more useful, as that captures a more complete picture and would weed out guys like Dunn and Reynolds
    SwStr% and O-Swing% would also help refine the search, although that isn’t kept track in the minors.

    Filtering by SO% > 25% and BB% < 7% and at least 1000 PA over the last 10 years i get:

    Wily Mo Pena, JP Arencibia, Danny Espinosa, Jeff Mathis, Miguel Olivo, Tyler Colvin, Laynce Nix, Starling Marte, Mark Trumbo.

  5. NormE
    August 18, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Trying to read Sandy Alderson is foolish. I would not be surprised if the team will go to spring training in ’15 without bringing in an external option. The internal options would include the usual suspects (Tejada, Flores) along with Tovar and Matt Reynolds.
    My usually suspect thinking is based on a belief that the asking price for a good young SS prospect will be too much for Sandy’s taste. Young arms are fragile and Sandy probably likes the insurance that comes with abundance.
    The Mets will probably not be players in the high cost FA market which eliminates a fairly decent veteran acquisition.

    Let’s hope Reynolds, or even Tovar, can fill the need.

  6. jerrygrote
    August 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Lol. The mets don’t have a top 5 prospect to deal.

  7. Jerry Grote
    August 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I’m guessing Baez could easily get to 175 to 200 ABs before October.

    Is it possible (with Olt in the minor leagues) that Baez hits more home runs than any NL rookie, playing only two months? (I hadn’t realized TDA led all active rookies with 10).

  8. Paul
    August 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    If the Mets keep Syndergaard, they win. If the Mets acquire Baez, they win. Baez clearly has some plate discipline issues. However, the players who posters here have compared him too are either immobile corner sluggers (while Baez is a middle infielder; maybe average at best at SS, but much more than holding his own so far in MLB at 2B) or guys who never never had the skills hype scouts have indicated for Baez. While Noah hasn’t had the best season in the pro-hitting PCL environment this year (with LV as his home park no less), at 21 he is one of the very youngest pitchers in the league. His HR rate is low, his BB/IP is good, and his K/9 is very good, though not great. His only deficiency is too many hits per innings pitched, which has jacked his ERA and WHIP.

    I think the classic comparison between the two players is Baez having a higher ceiling vs Noah having a higher floor. If you are risk averse, go with Noah who has a high probability of turning into a #2 Starter. If you are willing to take risks, go with Baez who has a greater chance than Noah of turning into a true Superstar, but also is more likely to turn into Mark Trumbo with a bat and decent to good middle infield defense.

    Both players here are correct, reasonable answers.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

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