Budding Iowa Cubs star leads barrage against Grizzlies

The Fresno BeeJune 9, 2014 

From his very first at-bat, the most prized shortstop in the minors showed exactly why he is so revered.

Javier Baez of the Iowa Cubs cranked an opposite field homer that sailed beyond the right-field wall and into the players-only parking lot during his first at-bat Monday against the Fresno Grizzlies.

Baez's impressive night, as well as the Cubs' offensive barrage, was just beginning.

The 21-year-old finished 3 for 5 with three runs and two RBIs, and the Cubs crushed two grand slams to defeat the Grizzlies 17-2 before an announced crowd of 3,025.

Baez, rated the top prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization and No. 5 overall by Baseball America, fell a double shy of hitting for the cycle.

In addition, Baez added a nifty stolen base when he made a head-first slide and avoided a tag, and displayed his cannon arm when fielding five grounders.

"I was just taking my pitches and swinging at pitches over the plate," said Baez, who hit third in the Cubs' batting order.

"Usually, I'm aggressive from the first pitch. But the game was so wide open, I was taking a first-pitch strike. I try to play this game right, don't try to show up anyone. Things worked out good for me tonight."

Baez, the No. 9 overall pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 amateur draft out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla., entered this season with high expectations after hitting 37 home runs with 111 RBIs in Double-A last year.

But he has struggled mightily in his first season in Triple-A, hitting just .172 in April and .250 in May. He is hitting .294 in June, though, to raise his average to .239 with nine home runs and nine steals for the season.

"I'm starting to figure out how they're going to pitch to me," Baez said. "They usually don't pitch me inside. So I started hitting the ball to the right side, try to use the whole field. Try to take more pitches, too.

"I feel like I'm getting into a groove."

Baez showed he could hit to all fields Monday. After his homer to right, Baez tripled off the center-field wall in the fifth and pulled a single to left in the ninth.

Baez is the highest-rated prospect to come to Chukchansi Park this season.

But the Grizzlies already have faced a couple of top prospects in the first two months, including Reno pitcher Archie Bradley (No. 9 overall) and Las Vegas pitcher Noah Syndergaard (No. 16).


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, bjanteola@fresnobee.com or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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