9:19 AM CDT, June 12, 2013
Talking baseball while waiting for the puck to drop at the United Center:
1. There was no encore for Javy Baez last night. The Daytona Cubs’ game against the Fort Myers Miracle was rained out, delaying his chance to continue his Monday night rampage until a doubleheader tonight. He’ll be sitting on a run of four homers in four at-bats when Game 1 begins.
His four-homer game, only the second in the history of the ancient Florida State League, is worthy of a second look.
It came against the best team in the league and one of the best in the minors. The Twins’ high-A affiliate features third baseman Miguel Sano, one of the best hitting prospects in the minors, and a guy a lot like Baez. He had to get a kick out of upstaging him.
But Fort Myers wasn’t featuring its best pitching, and as usual, Baez was getting pitches to hit in the No. 3 spot with Jorge Soler batting behind him.
I got a chance to look at video from that game and here’s what I saw, home run by home run:
First inning, one out, man on first against left-hander Matthew Tomshaw, a 24-year-old who was drafted in the 42nd round two years ago: The right-handed-hitting Baez crushes an outside fastball just above belt high to the opposite field.
Third inning, leading off against Tomshaw – with catcher Matt Koch setting up on the outside corner, a two-seam fastball comes down and in: Baez blasts it to center field, slightly to the left field side, for a 454-foot no-doubter.
Fifth inning, men on first and second, no outs against right-handed reliever Adrian Salcedo, a 22-year-old who is a ground-ball pitcher: Hanging curveball is lifted high to left field and carries over the fence.
Seventh inning, two outs, nobody on against left-hander Jose Gonzalez, a 23-year-old extreme fly-ball pitcher demoted from Double-A earlier in the season: Baez starts off 0-2 and takes a borderline pitch that could have been called strike three. He gets a sweeping slider breaking in on his knees with the 1-2 count and jerks it down the left-field line, with the only question being fair or foul. He doesn’t stand at the plate to admire it. He’s running down the line when umpire Fernando Rodriguez signals fair.
You wouldn’t say any of the homers came on tough pitches. But the Cubs’ front office was impressed with his approach, especially at how he wasn’t swinging at everything thrown to him in his fourth at-bat.
“He only over-swung at one, maybe two pitches tonight, and that was during his fourth at-bat where he fouled them off,” Daytona manager Dave Keller told Chris Boyle of the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “He was under control with his swings. He got good pitches to hit, and he hit them hard.”
Said Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz: “I don't think four home runs is easy to do in little league. We threw too many strikes to him, but at the same token, you've got to give him credit for hitting them. It's not easy to do it one time, let alone four.”
Baez comes into tonight’s doubleheader hitting .291 with 13 homers (third in the FSL) and 44 RBIs (fourth in the FSL). He had 60 strikeouts and 11 walks in 57 games.
He’s played 142 games as a pro, hit 29 home runs, scored 97 runs and driven in 91 runs. He’s stolen 32 bases. The troublesome ratio is 25 walks to 133 strikeouts. It’s not clear if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer see him spending a full season in Daytona or if he could be promoted to Double-A Tennessee for the second half. One factor is that Smokies shortstop Arismendy Alcantara, a 21-year-old switch hitter who can fly, is a legitimate prospect who is also raw.
2. Look for Arizona’s Ian Kennedy to get the longest of many suspensions that will be handed out from last night’s Diamondbacks-Dodgers brawl. Kennedy’s up-and-in pitch on Yasiel Puig that started the exchange was old-school pitching -- you test a red-hot rookie who is killing the ball -- but the situation should have been over after Zack Greinke plunked Jesus Montero. Instead Kennedy retaliated by drilling Greinke, who is turning into the headhunter that Carlos Quentin said he was, and six minutes of craziness broke out at Chavez Ravine.
3. For those needing a break from big-league baseball, the College World Series is going to be interesting. First-ranked North Carolina is probably the favorite but the Tar Heels have been pushed to the verge of elimination in both of the last two weekends. It would be fun to see Indiana or Louisville have a long run. Both of those teams have a lot of Chicago guys on the roster, with Indiana first baseman Sam Travis (Providence Catholic) and Louisville closer Nick Burdi (Downers Grove South) the most significant. Both are sophomores who could be picked in the first couple of rounds in next year’s draft. Kyle Funkhouser, a freshman with a power arm from Oak Forest High, pitches in front of Burdi in the Louisville bullpen.
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