Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer expects plenty of highlights from Javier Baez, but he believes the young slugger also will benefit from the inevitable tough times he will face the rest of the season at the big league level.
"A big part of why we brought him up when we did is we want him to get 50 or so games and get a chance to have those ups and downs," Hoyer said Wednesday on The Carmen & Jurko Show on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I'll be glad when he has the ups -- I think that will be great for him and his confidence -- but I think the downs will be great for him as well as he learns and thinks about what he has to improve over the course of the winter.
"We kind of felt like having that reset button in October heading into the offseason is really important to him. I think it will give him a chance to reflect on his year and think about what improvements he needs to make. I know when I was in San Diego we brought up [Anthony] Rizzo as a 21-year-old and he really struggled, went back and made some changes. I don't think he would have been able to make those changes in the middle of the season, so I think that's a great time to bring him up and let him play every day."
Baez had a memorable Cubs debut Tuesday, striking out three times before hitting a home run in the 12th inning to eventually beat the Colorado Rockies.
The eighth-best prospect in baseball according to Keith Law of ESPN, Baez hit 60 home runs the past two seasons in the minor leagues.
Despite the home run, Baez likely will struggle early on if his previous promotions are any indication.
"I think what we've seen at every level in the minor leagues is that he has generally struggled when he got to a level, taken a little bit of time and then really figured it out," Hoyer said. "A big part of what he had figured out in [Triple-A] Iowa was he was more patient, he was seeing more pitches. Even last night you saw he missed a couple of really hittable pitches early in counts probably because he overswung a little bit.
"I think he's always going to be a free swinger. I don't think his game is ever going to come without strikeouts, but I do think there is a chance that he learns to walk and get on base in part because of fear. Pitchers are not going to want to give in to this guy."
So now that the first of the highly touted prospects (Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora) has reached the majors, who's next?
"I thought calling up Baez gave us like 10 days of no 'who's next?' talk," Hoyer said. "I know that people are feeling guys are getting artificially suppressed or we're trying to overcook these guys, but I think that as these guys come up to the big leagues you'll see that they will even have development left in the big leagues. Pitching is so good right now in the major leagues. Your last 2-3 at-bats of every game you're facing middle relievers and guys who throw 96 with good sliders, and that's every single team.
"Being able to hit in the big leagues, it takes a lot, probably right now more than any other time in baseball history. It's really difficult just because of the number of hard-throwing relievers. The stuff is so good, and I think [it's better] for guys to be almost over-ready than to rush a guy and potentially kill his confidence."
Will outfielder Soler, who was just named the organization's player of the month for July, reach Wrigley Field by the end of the season?
"It's certainly something we will talk about as we talk about September call-ups," Hoyer said. "He's on the [major league] roster. We gave him a major league deal when we signed him, so he's on the 40-man roster, which is important. People always minimize the importance of that, but when you're trying to add players over the course of the winter, if you add guys who don't have to be on the 40-man roster it really does limit your ability to go out and get other guys.
"We made the decision with Baez because of the 50 games. Certainly it's something that will factor in with Soler, but right now the important thing is he keeps staying on this hot streak and keeps getting better."