The buzz is back at Wrigley Field.
More like the Baez, actually.
Javier Baez has homered four times in his first 13 major league games, and the 21-year-old infielder has given the Chicago Cubs a much-needed boost as they trudge through another dismal season in the standings. Chicago is in last place, 16 games out of first, but for the first time in a while, there are signs of hope.
“I think these young men are getting a taste now of being in the big leagues, playing against a lot of clubs that are competing for the postseason,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We hope that we’re relevant in that process in terms of how we go out and play the game, that we compete, that we continue to get better. The reality is any club that plays well together at any given time can put together a good run.”
Baez homered in his debut earlier this month, and although he has struck out 22 times in 55 at-bats, his power has already been on display.
“In spring training I saw him hit one of the longest opposite-field home runs hit in our ballpark,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s got tremendous power, and he’s swinging hard every pitch. You have to be careful.”
Baez is just one of the young players whom the Cubs hope will lead them to better days ahead. Arismendy Alcantara has played second base and the outfield for Chicago, and right-hander Kyle Hendricks is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. Add slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo and minor league prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, and this is a team that could make a significant jump in the standings in the next year or two.
Here’s a look at the other five last-place teams in the majors, and how their futures look:
BOSTON RED SOX: Boston finished last in 2012, then won the World Series in 2013, so don’t expect this organization to stay down for long. The starting rotation is barely recognizable after a flurry of trades this season, but the Red Sox still have Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli around to anchor a lineup that also includes youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley. Boston will also have money to spend this offseason, when pitchers like Max Scherzer and James Shields can become free agents.
MINNESOTA TWINS: The big issue facing the Twins right now is the health of two standout minor league prospects. Outfielder Byron Buxton ended up with a concussion after a recent collision with a teammate, and third baseman Miguel Sano has been out all year following right elbow surgery.
TEXAS RANGERS: Injuries are a major culprit behind the collapse of the Rangers. Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish have all missed time this year. If everyone is healthy, a 2015 rebound is possible, but for now, even the Houston Astros have surpassed Texas in the standings.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: Winners of five straight division titles from 2007 through 2011, the Phillies haven’t finished above .500 since the final year of that streak. The presence of so many big names still on the roster only underscores Philadelphia’s inability to acquire young talent (or payroll relief) via the trade market. It’s a discouraging aftermath to what was one of the great periods in the franchise’s long history.
COLORADO ROCKIES: The Rockies looked like they might contend for a postseason spot in late May, but the losses have piled up in abundance since then – both on the field and in the lineup. Troy Tulowitzki’s MVP bid was cut short by hip surgery, and Carlos Gonzalez was lost to knee surgery. Getting those two back and healthy is the first step toward a successful future for Colorado.