Cubs' Javier Baez Ascending To Superstar Status

After an MVP runner-up finish in 2018, Baez has again elevated his game.

Bruce Levine
May 12, 2019 - 7:18 pm
Cubs infielder Javier Baez

Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Distinguishing between a star and superstar in sports is usually a matter of debate and one's viewpoint, but more and more, it seems that Cubs shortstop Javier Baez is emerging from the former category and into the latter.

To understand Baez's influence on the Cubs' success, it's important to watch him regularly. That's something Cubs infielder Daniel Descalso has learned in his first year in Chicago, as he has a new appreciation for Baez now that he's a teammate instead of a foe.

"When you see him for a series here and there, you see the excitement he brings to the game," Descalso said. "Watching him every day, you get a chance to see how smart a player he is beyond the great skills he has on offense and defense. If you watch him once or twice, you may think he got lucky. Every day you see how smart he is and how close he pays attention to details and uses his instincts. Just a super smart baseball player and athlete."

The Cubs have another pair of stars in first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant. They established themselves earlier than Baez, who wasn't in the same conversation as them until 2018, when he finished as the National League MVP runner-up after posting career-highs by hitting .290 with 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 101 runs and an .881 OPS. 

Baez has elevated his performance another level this season, batting .316 with 11 homers, 28 RBIs, 31 runs and a .971 OPS in 37 games entering play Sunday eveing. Baez's 25 extra-base hits lead all of baseball, and there's now a strong argument to be made that he's the best all-around player on the team and one of the best in the game.

"He is right there with the best players right now," Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. said. "True five-tool players are very rare. We are fortunate to watch him impact games every night on different levels. His mindset separates him from most other players. He envisions things like most players, but he can deliver the sensational move or play on a regular basis."

With his skill set and highlight-reel defense and baserunning ability as well, Baez is the most exciting player in MLB in the minds of many. His goal is to put together a full season of top-flight production to join the likes of Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts as the best in the game.

"If his offense was a little more disciplined, he would be at the very top of that list," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez's ability. "As he becomes more disciplined, you will see him being in the top five. Right now, I do think he is No. 1 if you want to turn on the TV and watch someone play."

The significance of Baez to the Cubs extends beyond the numbers. They feed off his exuberant style, with Baez having a way of elevating the entire team.

"We get a lot of energy from Javy's game," Almora said. "We try as a team to feed off of his gameplay. It makes us better as well."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.