By most accounts, the Cubs have the deepest farm system in the majors. And it's time to start showing what this group can do. The first major domino has been knocked down.
Infield prospect Javier Baez will join the club in Colorado on Tuesday. He's the No. 2 prospect in the Chicago system (behind Kris Bryant; in front of Addison Russell and Jorge Soler), and most of the prospect hounds had him the Top 8 overall before the season. Baez was hitting .260 at Triple-A Iowa, with 23 homers and 16 steals through 104 games.
The 21-year-old infielder was playing both shortstop and second base in the minors, but he's going to play second for the Cubs. Arismendy Alcantara (another fun Chicago prospect) figures to shift to the outfield. Baez currently qualifies at shortstop-only in the Yahoo game for now, but we won't quibble with multiple-position eligibility (it's coming in five games). We also don't mind that Baez's major-league debut is coming in Coors Field.
It's interesting to see the Cubs make the call for Baez now, in the midst of a lost season. Perhaps they want to see him get his cleats wet as soon as possible, so he'll be at full throttle next year. Baez began this season in a horrible slump, but his bat came alive over the last couple of months (and he also homered in the Futures Game). Feeling stronger every day. He's already been chased up to 42 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues.
Baez could use some work with his contact rate (130 strikeouts at Triple-A), though he did have a respectable 34 walks at Iowa. He was thrown out on a third of his steal attempts; you'd like to see that improve, too. But we're talking about the No. 9 overall pick from the 2011 draft, and someone who's rocketed through the minors, arriving at age 21. Chicago has every reason to be excited, and it should be fun to watch him play.
The immediate range of outcomes is wide for any rookie, of course. George Springer was a mess early in his 2014 debut, then came alive. Jon Singleton has been mostly a swing and miss to this point. Oscar Taveras hasn't gone off yet, though a full-time job could get him going. Andrew Heaney didn't do much with his Florida callup. Mookie Betts hasn't taken The Hub by storm.
Heck, if we go back to 2011, Mike Trout's first 40 games in the majors were mediocre (.222/.281/.390). A year later, he was the best player in baseball. Bottom line, while everyone is excited about Baez's future, there's no guarantee he crushes in The Show right away. But when you see plausible upside, you have to take it seriously.
Share your Baez expectations in the comments. And if you traded for or away from Baez in the last few days (ah, the upside of the unknown), share that with us, too.
• Bad luck was Brandon McCarthy's story through three months in Arizona this year. He posted a 3-10 record and 5.01 ERA, despite a reasonable 3.82 FIP and a strong 4.7 K/BB rate. Sometimes it's just not your year.
And sometimes you get moved off the sinking ship before the iceberg hits and things magically turn around (welcome back, cutter). McCarthy was dealt to the Yankees a month ago and he's starting to catch some breaks. He's already 4-0 through five Broadway starts, with the same snappy K/BB rate he posted in the desert. And this time, his real-life ERA (2.08) is better than the FIP-suggested number (2.74).
McCarthy just missed a quality start Monday against Detroit, though the final line is welcome in any fantasy format (5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K). He'll draw formidable pitching opponents for his next two starts (home against the ridiculous Corey Kluber; on the road against Alex Cobb), but this still sounds like a pitcher who should be owned in more than 25 percent of Yahoo leagues. Start clicking, clickers. Keep cutting, cutter.
• The writing was on the wall for Pedro Alvarez, but maybe he also caught a break at the right time. Alas, his break is a kick in the stomach for fantasy owners. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen (oblique) is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
Before McCutchen got hurt, Alvarez was probably ticketed to the Pittsburgh bench - Josh Harrison can play anywhere you want, including third. But now that McCutchen needs DL time, Harrison sticks in the outfield (depending on matchups and the health of others) and Alvarez gets more time to get his bat going.
Alvarez really shouldn't be playing against left-handers (.189 average), and he's not exactly a monster against the righties (.246/.336/.432, 13 homers), either. At least he's stolen a sneaky six bases, though it goes against his career trend and could stop at any time. Alvarez is still rostered in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues, and while the bloated number reflects a lot of things, it's still too darn high. Get thee to the waiver wire. I've already moved on from my two Pedro shares, cutting him outright in a couple of mixers.
• Kevin Gausman is another example of a buzzy prospect who didn't do much upon his first promotion - he posted a 5.66 ERA in 47.2 Baltimore innings last year. He's been more useful in his second season (6-3, 3.77 ERA over 11 starts), though it's not easy to completely buy in yet.
Gausman, 23, was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, a fast-track kid out of LSU. He posted big strikeout numbers in the bush leagues for a couple of years, and with the Orioles last season, but his 2014 success has been more of a pitch-to-contact story.
The fastball still makes the gun pop - it's at 95.1 mph this year - but the strikeouts haven't followed. He's fanning just 5.8 batters per nine innings (against 3.3 BB/9). He's keeping the ball in the park, but a 4.5 HR/FB obviously isn't sustainable.
Gausman remains an interesting streamer, but I'm not going to full-time roster him in my mixers. There's not enough strikeouts, and he's obviously in the less-appealing league. A home start against St. Louis looks fine for the weekend, but I would steer away from him at Cleveland next week.
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