There has been two main storylines once spring training has started for the Cubs in my mind. The first is why are all the Cubs breaking (Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Ian Stewart, Starlin Castro, Albert Almora, and I am sure I am missing some)? The other is how excited should we be about the future of this franchise (Jorge Soler and Javier Baez)? At the beginning of spring training it was Jorge Soler that stole the show and as each was sent back to Class A Daytona it was Javier Baez that grabbed the headlines. Clearly we should be excited about each of these prospects.
But that excitement has taken a turn with some fans asking why shouldn’t these players break camp with the big league club? Why couldn’t a player that hit 4 homeruns on 5 pitches be ready to contribute at the big league level? Why couldn’t Baez and Soler be able to contribute at a young age like other wunderkinds Manny Machado, Mike Trout, or Bryce Harper? I mean Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are all younger than Jorge Soler and a matter of months of older than Javier Baez.
The rather unsatisfactory, but true, answer that has been given is that they are not ready. The level of competition that players face is important. Jorge Soler has only played 20 games of full season ball, and Javier Baez has played 23 games at advanced A ball. Compare that to the big name prospects that were called up last season. Mike Trout played 20 games in AAA before being called up, and was playing in AA when he was first called up in 2011. Manny Machado played 109 games at AA. Bryce Harper was playing in AAA prior to be called up.
You can even dig deeper for comparisons to other players that were called up at a young age in Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Rodriguez. All three at least played in AA prior to establishing themselves as major league regulars, and only Beltre and Castro effectively skipped AAA. The jump from A ball to major league regular is basically unheard of in baseball. Jason McLeod essentially said as much at that prior to spring training when stating as AA being the level players could be called up.
This isn’t just something the Cubs have imposed on their prospects, but even beyond that Jed Hoyer’s experience with Anthony Rizzo is going to caution the front office from rushing either player to the majors. And for good reason since each has things to work on in games that don’t count. Baez’s approach is going to be exploited at the major league level, and Soler still has aspects to work on his swing. So be excited about the future, but know that each is far from a sure thing. And the odds of seeing either in Wrigley this year is exceedingly low. Follow each in Daytona because the race to Tennessee will be telling of the timetable the front office is placing on these, hopeful, cornerstones of the franchise.