Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs' top prospect, injured his left thumb over the weekend while playing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). The injury will likely put an end to Baez's time in the AFL.
Baez was having a strange season in Arizona. The 19-year-old shortstop was posting solid power numbers but had a low batting average and just two walks and 14 strikeouts in 14 games with the Mesa Solar Sox. Baez hit just .211 but contributed four home runs and 16 RBIs to Mesa's attack. Baez, a shortstop by trade, struggled defensively in limited time at third base with the Solar Sox.
The injury to Baez is disheartening as prospect-watching has become a popular activity among Cubs fans. Baez will miss out on the extra at-bats he would have received over the final two weeks of the AFL season. In the long run, the injury likely represents a minor setback for the promising Baez. The Cubs already know that Baez is a big part of the club's future.
Baez should be ready to play in spring training. The youngster doesn't figure to have a chance to make the Cubs' opening day roster, but he did impress in his first professional season. Baez hit .294 with 16 home runs, 46 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases in 80 games between the Peoria Chiefs and Daytona Cubs.
Baez struggled after his promotion to Daytona, hitting just .188 in limited duty, and given his issues with plate discipline in the AFL he will likely repeat the level 2013.
Baez has emerged as a centerpiece of Theo Epstein's rebuilding plan for the Cubs. With Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro inked to a long-term contract extension, Baez may need to move to third base in the coming years. The Cubs should resist the urge to change Baez's position until he proves that his bat is ready for major-league action. Baez heads up a list of emerging power-hitting prospects for the Cubs that also includes Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Dan Vogelbach.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com and http://www.milb.com.