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Status quo for Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber as both impress Cubs

Javier Baez has had a strong start in Triple-A Iowa -- hitting .311 with 5 home runs, 17 RBIs and 6 stolen bases. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez won't be moving to the outfield anytime soon but the Cubs aren't ruling it out either.

"It wouldn't be surprising if we did see him out there," Vice-President of Scouting and Development Jason McLeod said Tuesday afternoon. "There are no plans in the works. I want to make that clear."

Baez has been hot at Triple-A Iowa raising his batting average to .311 and his on-base percentage to .388. He's played both second base and shortstop, two positions occupied by Starlin Castro and Addison Russell at the major league level.

McLeod talked about the athletic Baez as someone who could move around the diamond simply because of his baseball instincts.

"Javier Baez is a baseball player," McLeod said.

So why not outfield? The Cubs are less crowded at that position, especially in left.

"All we're concerned about right now is him maintaining what's going on," McLeod said.

In other words, the Cubs don't want to hand him another challenge less than a month since coming back to baseball after the passing of his sister. But that doesn't mean it can't happen in the future. It would probably be easier than moving from shortstop to second base which Baez and Russell have each done over the last two years.

"He's on a good run right now," McLeod said. "The mindset is there. He's in a good place right now."

As for a promotion at whatever position he's playing the Cubs are waiting. They aren't saying if he's ready or if he's even needed. But they're watching.

"We're all looking at that every day," McLeod said. "You can see that sparkle there."

Analysis: What could really be the harm in playing Baez a few games in left field? It's the simplest position to move to and if it takes away from his offense the Cubs can always scrap the idea. If he continues to hit it would be a nice bat to add if either middle infielder went down or the Cubs deemed a need for a better right-handed bat in left field. Baez still has to prove he can hit at the major league level but he's already shown good instincts in the field in the big leagues, wherever he's played.


McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer are getting questions about their top pick in last year's draft, Kyle Schwarber. He's hitting .305 with 10 home runs at Double-A Tennessee. A promotion to Triple-A Iowa is probably in the cards but can he make it all the way to the major leagues this year?

"To be candid it's too early to assess any of those things," Hoyer said. "We love what we see so far but it's way too early to talk about that."

In the past the Cubs front office has indicated a team in contention can determine a player's path as much as his development. If a bat or glove is needed at the major league level, in order to contend, then a player like Schwarber can't be ruled out.

"You have to have the right makeup, the right ability," McLeod said.

We wouldn't be having this discussion if Schwarber didn't have a mature makeup and a left-handed swing that some scouts say is near major league ready. If this was a year ago the idea of Schwarber playing for the Cubs would be a moot point just as it was for Kris Bryant. The Cubs didn't need Bryant to win games because they simply didn't care how many they won. It could be different with Schwarber.

"He's having a great year," McLeod said. "We'll see."

Analysis: There are good arguments on both sides of the issue. The Cubs have done well with their player development plan, showing great patience with the best of their talented youth. Keeping the pipeline on a similar pace brings some predictability to the process. Then again Schwarber could be an exception to the rule. Like Bryant, his personality and his game are more mature than most at his age. The likeliest scenario would be a September call-up where he can get his feet wet while potentially helping the club. An injury or two at catcher could also speed up the process though by all accounts Schwarber isn't ready defensively.