Prospect Notebook: Javier Baez Powers Through FSL

Javier Baez, ss, Cubs: Baez has tantalizing bat speed and power potential, but his free-swinging approach has started to eat into his on-base percentage this year. We talked about this on the Prospect Handbook Podcast, but sometimes the best way for an aggressive hitter like Baez to become a more disciplined hitter isn’t by having the organization mandate he start taking the first pitch or emphasizing walks. Sometimes a young hitter just has to swing at bad pitches, then learn that those are the pitches he needs to lay off because he can’t do damage with that slider that dives off the plate or that tempting fastball above the strike zone. Some players never make the adjustment, but the talented ones learn from their mistakes. With Baez, the adjustments are already starting to come as a 20-year-old in high Class A Daytona. On Saturday Baez went 5-for-6 with three doubles and a home run, then followed that up yesterday with a 2-for-4 day to bring him to .281/.322/.519 with nine walks, 56 strikeouts and nine home runs. Baez is going to have to put in major work to clean up his defense, though, as he’s looked out of place at shortstop with 24 errors in 51 games.

Mike Zunino, c, Mariners: Zunino is a talented prospect, but it’s important to remember that he was still a college junior at this time last year before the Mariners made him the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Most college juniors are at one of the Class A levels or Double-A if they’re extremely advanced, but the Mariners played it aggressively with Zunino by sending him to Triple-A Tacoma. So it’s not a surprise that Zunino has showed flashes of excellence while looking overmatched just as often. Zunino, 22, hit two home runs on Friday to give him 11 in 42 games, with 24 of his 37 hits having gone for extra bases. He’s also struck out 53 times in 42 games, which is why he’s hitting .227/.297/.521.

Tyler Naquin, cf, Indians: When the Indians drafted Naquin with their first-round pick (15th overall) last year, scouts felt they were getting a quality hitter with a good approach but not much power. That’s been exactly what he has given the Indians so far at high Class A Carolina, where he’s hitting .315/.375/.475 with four home runs in 53 games. That fourth home run came yesterday as Naquin capped off a three-day stretch in which he went 8-for-14 with four extra-base hits.

Raul Alcantara, rhp, Athletics: Alcantara pitched well for the Red Sox in Rookie ball in 2011, so the A’s targeted him as a secondary piece along with Miles Head in the trade that brought Josh Reddick to Oakland and sent Andrew Bailey to Boston. Alcantara’s first season in Oakland was a disaster, as he racked up a 5.08 ERA with low Class A Burlington, but his return to the Midwest League with the organization’s new affiliate in Beloit has been much better. Alcantara, 20, allowed one run over eight innings with no walks and nine strikeouts on Friday, lowering his ERA to 2.94 over 64 1/3 innings. With a low-90s fastball, a solid changeup and good control (0.8 walks per nine innings), Alcantara is back on the prospect radar.

Carlos Belen, 3b, Padres: Saturday was Opening Day in the Dominican Summer League, which is where the Padres assigned Belen, their $1.1 million signing out of the Dominican Republic last year and the No. 8 international prospect for July 2, 2012. The 17-year-old is going to have to put in work to stay at third base, but he has a compact stroke and plus power potential. He’s homered in both games for the DSL Padres, going 2-for-6 with a pair of walks. Yesterday’s home run came off Giants righthander Raffi Vizcaino, the nephew of prominent Dominican trainer Basilio Vizcaino known as “Cachaza.”

Lance McCullers Jr., rhp, Astros: McCullers was one of the premier pitching prospects in last year’s draft, so it’s no surprise what he’s been able to do in low Class A Quad Cities. After throwing five scoreless innings yesterday, the 19-year-old McCullers has a 1.70 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 22 walks in 47 2/3 innings. With Houston’s tandem-starting system, McCullers hasn’t pitched more than five innings into a game, so he hasn’t had to make adjustments going through the lineup a third time or answer questions about his durability, but there’s no question his stuff projects at the big league level.