Javier Baez Impresses At Plate And On Basepaths

BEST PLAYER: Javier Baez made the most of a limited chance to flash his potential for the Cubs' new regime.

The ninth overall pick last June was kept in Arizona for extended spring training before being assigned to low Class A Peoria, and he blew through there in just 57 games, batting .333/.383/.596 with 12 home runs. He struggled after an early August promotion to high Class A Daytona, batting .188/.244/.400, but established himself as a power/speed player with the skills to remain at shortstop.

The Cubs knew he could hit monster home runs, and he did, but his plus baserunning instincts were unexpected. He stole 24 bases in 29 attempts this season. His plate discipline remains a work in progress, which  was expected, and he had 69 strikeouts against 14 walks on the season.

There are pitchers with better stuff, but none have pitched better than 5-foot-11 righthander Nick Struck, a 39th-round pick out of Mount Hood (Ore.) CC in the 2009 draft.

Struck, 22, has been a consistent winner rising through a pitching-thin farm system and delivered results at Double-A Tennessee, going 14-10, 3.18 with 123 strikeouts and 44 walks over 156 innings. He's a strike thrower  with good command, contributing to his 1.18 WHIP, and he has a three-pitch combination that helps him finish hitters when he's ahead.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Despite missing the second half of the season, shortstop Arismendy Alcantara made an impression with his tools and his ceiling. The 20-year-old Dominican flashed both bat speed and foot speed as the everyday shortstop at Daytona. He hit .302/.339/.447 and showed power from both sides of the plate (five home runs lefthanded, two righthanded) while stealing 25 bases in 29 attempts. The drawback was that he committed 35 errors, including 30 in 71 games at shortstop. Alcantara was sidelined with a broken bone in his foot on July 11 and the Cubs decided not to rush his return.


• Tennessee first baseman Justin Bour, a 25th-round pick in 2009 from George Mason, led the organization with 110 RBIs  and has put himself in consideration for a 40-man roster spot with a .283/.360/.455 overall line.

• Jorge Soler, the $30 million Cuban outfielder, was productive in a limited opportunity with Peoria. Playing right field, he hit .338/.398/.513 with three homers in 80 at-bats.