Javier Baez has become one of the most polarizing players in baseball with his flashy style of play. He has become a fan favorite in Chicago, and Cubs fans couldn’t be more excited to see him develop in 2018. On the other hand, Baez has become a target for hate from opposing teams’ fan bases, which he seems to feed off of.
During the 2017 MLB season, Baez worked his way into an everyday role for manager Joe Maddon. His role increased in a big way when he took over the starting shortstop role after Addison Russell went down with an injury.
Chicago is hoping to get back to World Series contention in 2018. In order to do that, the Cubs will need Baez to take a step forward. They need his offense to take the next step and for him to not only hit for power but also improve when it comes to putting the ball in play and laying off the low breaking ball in the dirt.
Baez ended the 2017 season with a 0.273 batting average to go along with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs, according to ESPN statistics. He also continued to flash a top-notch glove, especially in an increased role as the Cubs’ starting shortstop.
Looking ahead to the 2018 season, there are quite a few areas that Baez must improve. That being said, what three goals should be set for him?
Cut Down On Strikeouts Low And Away
His biggest issue last season was striking out on pitches in the dirt, although he also struck out on the high fastball as well. Baez cannot afford to waste his at-bats with hacks at pitches way out of the zone. Cutting down on those strikeouts will be a major key to unlocking his full offensive potential in 2018.
Improve Average To At Least 0.285
If Baez can take his average up just over a point, he will become a much more dangerous weapon at the plate for the Cubs. As of right now, he is known as a slugger, but becoming an all-around bat would give opposing pitchers nightmares. Baez has above-average power, and lifting his average to 0.285 would force pitchers to give him more pitches to club out of the park.
Club At Least 30 Home Runs
Baez could become an even more dangerous home-run hitter with a bit more plate discipline. If he is able to improve in the two areas already mentioned, he should be able to take his home run total to 30 or higher. Chicago could use more consistent offensive production, and 30 home runs from Baez would be a step in that direction.