Javier Baez became a fixture in the Cubs' lineup in 2016, showing an improved eye (career-low 24.0 percent strikeout rate) and punishing left-handed pitching at a .311/.375/.475 clip. Thanks to his excellent defensive work, Baez emerged as a regular against righties, and while his .258/.288/.401 split line leaves plenty of room for improvement, he dropped his strikeout rate (v. RHP) from 31.7 percent in 2015 to 26.4 percent last season. Still only 24 years old, Baez has the tools necessary to become an elite offensive contributor in the middle infield. Although he struggled during the World Series, Baez's performance in the NLCS garnered MVP honors in that series, and his home run in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Giants helped spark the team's run to its first World Series title since 1908. With further improvement to his plate discipline, Baez could approach 20 homers and 20 steals in 2017, even if he's technically in a utility role to open the season.
The Cubs want Baez to be more consistent in the field before he assumes an everyday role at second base, CSNChicago reports. As manager Joe Maddon put it, he wants Baez to cut down on the "chrome" and focus on making all the routine plays. Maddon added that Baez "has a flair about his game, so I don't necessarily want to subtract that. But just have him understand the routine stuff has to be made routinely well." The 24-year-old often makes amazing plays in the field, but he's still fairly error-prone at this point (see the two errors he made in Game 7 of the World Series). For Baez to grab an everyday role at second base, he'll have to show more day-to-day consistency.
Baez could become the full-time starter at second to start the season or sometime during the year, The Chicago Sun-Times reports. Baez's versatility in 2016 was a big boon for the Cubs, but second base is his best position, and it's possible he becomes an everyday player there sometime in 2017. "Obviously, when I get my years in the big leagues, I want to have my own spot," Baez said. Ben Zobrist is in the mix at second as well, but he'll likely spend time platooning with Kyle Schwarber in left field.
Baez said he will play second base for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Baez appeared at first, second, third and short stop for the Cubs last season, and also got some run in the outfield. It appears he will focus on second base in the WBC, but his versatility could come into play for Puerto Rico.
Baez will play for Puerto Rico in this year's World Baseball Classic, his first appearance in the tournament. The 24-year-old will join a roster featuring fellow young stars Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. As a likely preview of his role with the Cubs this year, Baez figures to be a super utility player for Puerto Rico. He should be one of the team's offensive leaders.
Baez and Ben Zobrist could form a platoon at second base this year, with Baez used against lefties, Mike Petriello of MLB.com reports. While this would limit the amount of time Baez sees at second, he still figures to play plenty for the Cubs in 2017. Last season, Baez appeared at third base, second base, first base, short stop and left field, and he'll probably be used in a super utility role again this year.