We’ll get to the rest of the bench mob at a later date, and Javy probably should be considered part of that. But we all know Javy is so much more, so I’ll give him his own post. Besides, bench players don’t get 450 PA usually, as that’s what Javy got last year. And you’d have to think that’s about the number he’s going to get this year.
So it would be stupid for me to even comment on Javy’s defense. It’s stupid. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s NBA Jam on a baseball field. And it comes in three, possibly four positions (he could get a start or two at first). Remember last year at this time when we thought he might get some looks in center? Or left? And is there any doubt he could pull it off? Of course there isn’t. But it’s unlikely he’ll get any time in the outfield. If he does, it’ll be strange days indeed.
So, at the plate. This is where there is something of a problem. Baez is still very much developing, still very much a young player, especially with a bat in his hands. Sure, he bookended the NLDS with game-winning hits, and then threw up an NLCS MVP at everyone in the next round. So if you looked quickly, you would think he’s closer to the finished article. But we know better, and we know that the Giants and Dodgers kept throwing him fastballs down the middle or kept hanging breaking pitches to him. The Indians made no such mistakes, at least until Game 7 when Javy remembered he has bonkers power to right field.
Still, when all was said and done Javy had a 94 wRC+, which is below average, and we know there’s more in there than that. While he got his strikeout rate to 24%, far below the immolation that was his first foray into the majors, that’s still a tad high. And a 3.3% walk-rate isn’t going to work for anyone.
Basically, Javy needs to turn into the hitter he is against lefties all the time. Because Javy torched lefties. A 124 wRC+, .375 OBP, .475 SLG, and 8.1% walk-rate with a strikeout-rate below 20%. As a platoon player, Javy has real value. You can bet that Maddon will try and get him in against lefties as much as he can. But that doesn’t get him in the lineup all that often. In the division, only the Reds are projected to have lefty-starters. Things could change obviously, but that’s not going to be enough time.
The problems when facing righties is pretty clear. He whiffs nearly half the time against curves and sliders. This isn’t rocket science. Here’s Javy’s zone profile with whiffs per swing on every pitch from righties:
And it’s not like they’re throwing fastballs low and away into the dirt. It’s not hard to figure where Javy needs to cut down on his offerings.
The problem is, can you do that when you’re not in there every day? Do you get enough reps when you might face a right-handed pitcher only twice a week? Is Javy going to get more ABs than that during the season when Zobrist and Schwarber and Heyward and La Stella are going to be part of the rotation in the field? It’s hard to think he will.
Looking over the numbers, against righties Javy only hit 20.2% of the balls he put in play the other way. As we know, Javy has a ton of power the other way, as anyone who remembers his tracer bullet in his first ever MLB game can attest. That thing never got like more than 15 feet off the ground. He just doesn’t use it. It would seem the key for Javy is picking his spots to pull out the driver, and spend the rest of the time letting the ball travel and not being afraid to flip out singles and doubles over the 2nd baseman’s head. Just long enough to show that he can, to bring pitchers back inside and up. This would also give him more time to decipher the slider from the fastball.
Javy is not going to be a great hitter, most likely, though I won’t totally rule it out. And when he’s good, there are few more exciting. But there’s more to unlock here, and capping his ceiling at merely a platoon player/defensive wizard seems unfair. The only question is if he’ll get enough burn to find the combination.