Joshua Baez Adds To Cardinals' Young Hitting Depth
After measuring his swing against the ballpark he hopes to call home and dropping a few baseballs over the wall during batting practice at Busch Stadium, Joshua Baez put a timetable on his return.
“I’m just glad to be here,” he said. “I’m really passionate about the sport. I would love to be (back) here within two to three years.”
The Cardinals would welcome another swift-rising hitter.
After years of excelling at drafting and developing pitchers while searching and shopping for hitters, the Cardinals are quietly percolating with optimism about the batters acquired in recent drafts.
Slugger Nolan Gorman leads the group after his promotion to Triple-A, while 2020 draft picks Jordan Walker and Alec Burleson have already moved up a level from their debuts in 2021. Walker, 19, has already established himself as one of the top teen hitting prospects in baseball.
Baez, drafted in the second round this year, is the latest young, strapping and high-upside hitter the Cardinals believe they can nurture in their updated development environment.
The Cardinals adjusted bonuses elsewhere to go over-slot with a $2.25 million offer to Baez that lured the Boston-area high school product from a commitment to Vanderbilt.
The 18-year-old Baez was one of the youngest players available in the draft. He attracted scouts to Dexter Southfield School with his 100 mph exit velocity. He also touched 97 mph as a pitcher.
Baez considers himself a center fielder, and the Cardinals believe that at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he could advance as a middle-order corner outfielder. Baez, who spent some of his youth in the Dominican Republic, is attempting to be the first Boston high schooler to be drafted and reach the majors since righthander Manny Delcarmen in 2005.
“There is a looseness to him that resembles the Dominican ballplayers who are signed young versus, let’s say, the travel-ball environment that some stateside players have,” Cardinals assistant general manager Randy Flores said. “There’s a naturalness to him that’s really fun to see.”
And see rise.
— Less than two months after Nolan Gorman became the first Double-A Springfield player with three homers in one game, 2015 first rounder Nick Plummer echoed the feat on July 8, hitting his third homer of a game as a walk-off winner. Plummer, 24, has reinvigorated his status as a prospect by hitting .303/.407/.509 though his first 63 games.
— The first high schooler from the 2020 draft promoted to High-A was Jordan Walker, the Cardinals’ slugging third baseman who vaulted to Peoria and became, at 19, one of the youngest players in High-A Central. In his first pro season, he was hitting .331/.421/.586 through 38 games while also being cautious with a wrist injury.