MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez was one of seven cuts made Saturday as the Cubs pared their roster to 37 entering the final days of spring training.
Baez, 21, had a strong spring at the plate despite striking out a team-leading 13 times in 42 at-bats. He hit .310 with five home runs, but he never managed a hit with a man on base. All his home runs were solo shots.
Still, Baez made headlines with prodigious blasts, including one that traveled 452 feet last Wednesday night against the Colorado Rockies, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Four of his five home runs went to right or center field.
“He understands he needs to continue to work on his defense,” manager Rick Renteria said after announcing the demotion. “Go down there (Triple-A) and put together some good at-bats, try to get on base a little bit more through the process, and go out there and be a professional.”
Renteria said Baez took the news well and wasn’t surprised by the move. The Cubs have said since the winter that Baez would be their starting shortstop at Triple-A Iowa. He played two games at second base during spring training and could eventually debut in the majors there, but for now he’ll play his natural position.
“We sent him down to play shortstop,” Renteria said. “That’s what we told him.”
Baez could be called up later this season since the Cubs will probably want to avoid his becoming a Super Two. If they wait until late June or early July, he won’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season. Otherwise, he could be eligible after 2015. The Cubs employed the same strategy with Anthony Rizzo in 2012. He debuted on June 26.
Baez left Thursday’s spring game against the White Sox with a right heel contusion, blaming it on using metal cleats. He said the injury was minor and that he’ll go back to using rubber cleats.
Parker is the one surprise in that group after finishing last season as a main arm in the bullpen.
“He has to continue to command the zone, not make things too complicated and do what he does,” Renteria said. “He has a tremendous arm.”
Parker had a 9.00 ERA in six spring innings.