During 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|
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.