Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez Must Shine Vs. Nationals For Cubs To Win NLDS [Opinion]

Javier Baez is the Cubs' X-Factor.

Javier Baez put together his best season yet in 2017 after getting off to a rough start to begin the season. By the end of the year, he was one of the biggest reasons for the Chicago Cubs’ resurgence. Now, the Cubs will need Baez to step up and shine against the Washington Nationals in order to win the NLDS.

Chicago has their work cut out for them against Dusty Baker and an incredibly talented Washington team. The Nationals finished the regular season with a 97-65 record, which placed them above the 92-70 Cubs. Washington has a high-powered offense, but their pitching staff is what got them to this point.

Throughout the course of the season, Baez ended up recording a 0.273 batting average to go along with 23 home runs and 75 RBI’s. He also continued his excellent defensive play. Very few infielders have the kind of defensive ability that Baez brings to the diamond, which was a big reason that the Cubs broke their curse and won the World Series last season.

Baez is needed now more than ever, on both sides of the diamond. His power could be the X-Factor for the Cubs, but his glove will be needed just as much as any offensive production that he brings to the table.

At just 24 years of age, Baez has become one of the key pieces for the Cubs. His future couldn’t be brighter, and he still hasn’t reached his full potential. Now would be an ideal time for him to reach that potential.

Washington will put stars like Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and a resurgent Gio Gonzalez on the mound. They also have Tanner Roark, who is a more than capable starter. In addition to the starting pitching, the Nationals have a top-notch bullpen that features Matt Albers, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle.

Finding ways to put up runs will not be easy for the Cubs. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will have to put up big numbers, but they won’t be able to win with just those two being the bulk of the offensive production. Baez will have to improve his plate discipline, which he was able to do last postseason.

During the 2016 postseason, Baez posted solid numbers. He had a 0.265 batting average but had two home runs and eight RBI’s. They may not look like big numbers, but they were huge as a supporting member of the Cubs’ lineup.

Chicago does have plenty of talent outside of Baez to support Bryant and Rizzo. Players like Willson Contreras, Jon Jay, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ are all capable of big numbers. That being said, Baez finding ways to shorten his swing and get on base may very well be the key for the Cubs.

Expect to see Baez rise to the occasion once again. He feeds off of clutch situations, and that will not change this postseason. Chicago may not be favored to knock off the Nationals by most, but they aren’t going to be knocked out without a fight.

Do you think Javier Baez is the key for the Chicago Cubs’ chances against Washington? If not, which player do you think will be their X-Factor? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

[Featured Image by John Bazemore/AP Images]