A lot of articles about the draft are pretty straightforward. I project that Player A is going to do X and I project that players B-C-D and E are projected to do Y, which is why I am suggesting that you select player A. Ok, get back to me next week when I write about why you should have drafted Josh Donaldson over Adrian Beltre. What about the tougher calls? What about the players with a lot less surety and who are a lot more unknown? Masahiro Tanaka fits that description. Is he going to need Tommy John surgery in June or 2017? Is he an ace and a steal at his current Average Draft Position of 133, or is he a wasted pick no matter when you select him because he has already made reservations with Dr. Andrews and he just doesn’t know it yet? Javier Baez and Yasmany Tomas are the prospect version of that kind of difficult analysis. No, I am not going to give you an exact draft slot for Javier Baez and Yasmany Tomas… well, maybe I will. What I am definitely going to do is run through the arguments and tell you when these two talented rookies are a value worth the risk.
Let’s break these two guys down, both the positives and negatives. Let’s start with the negatives because I am a bitter, whiney SOB.
Both Javier Baez and Yasmany Tomas are all-or-nothing batters, and they have been just that this spring. It isn’t what you like to see when you plan to be aggressive drafting a prospect or an international player without much of a major league track record. Here are their spring stats to punctuate the point.
Baez comes to us with a well-documented minor league history. He struck out a combined 445 times in 371 games between the minor and major leagues. Baez didn’t have much trouble making contact below High-A, but he had 372 strikeouts in 2013-14 at High-A, Double-A, Triple-A and the majors combined, the proving ground for prospects.
The consensus was that Baez would spend a significant amount of 2014 with the Cubs, but extreme aggression and nothing that even resembled an approach prompted management to leave him in Triple-A to work on his issues for most of the season. When he was finally promoted, Baez struck out 95 times in 52 major league games with only 15 walks. He didn’t take to the instruction much, and as the table above shows, he didn’t make positive progress in the offseason either.
The Cubs have Starlin Castro at shortstop and they traded for Tommy La Stella during the offseason. Speculation is that it is insurance for Baez, and they have Arismendy Alcantara, who came up as a second baseman and would make for a fine super utility player. The math is starting to add up. Baez may start and possibly spend a significant amount of 2015 in Triple-A just like he did in 2014.
Tomas comes to us with a lot of uncertainty, which is the same as risk with more consonants and vowels. Scouting reports suggest he will swing and miss a lot and slug a lot of home runs, but he only struck out 168 times with only 39 home runs in 950 plate appearances in his Cuban league career. Scouts know he is a strapping slugger with immense raw power, but those numbers aren’t exactly Babe Ruth or a juiced up Barry Bonds, and there isn’t a Cuban pitcher with Clayton Kershaw’s hook or Adam Wainwright’s command and pitching acumen. The road is going to get tougher for Mr. Tomas. Reports from Ben Badler of Baseball America in June of 2014 suggested that Tomas had regressed and that he lost at bats in 2013 after his 2011-2012 breakout season. One source did say that the reduced playing time was due to an injury. Hardly scientific evidence, but it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy about him.
To add to the mystery of what we may get from Tomas at the plate, we don’t know where he is going to play in the field. The Diamondbacks announced that he would play third base since their outfield is full, first base is taken by maybe the best hitter in baseball, Paul Goldschmidt, and the National League doesn’t have a DH. Well, it took less than 10 days before Tomas was taking fly balls in left field, and rumors of Mark Trumbo on the trading block were circulating. As of March 25, the story is that Tomas will play both left field and third base if he makes the Opening Day roster. D-Backs manager Chip Hale said if; I am not speculating out of school here. Regardless of which position he ends up at, he won’t be even a league average defender for all of you WAR disciples (wins above replacement). If that wasn’t enough, it took Tomas 45 at-bats to slug two home runs (Kris Bryant now has nine, by the way).
We have the dreary out of the way, now lets bask in some praise.
Javier Baez has one of the quickest swings in baseball, which creates the power to launch bombs and lasers all over the United States and parts of Canada. He stole 62 bases in 319 minor league games and five in 52 major league games while only being caught 18 times all year. He qualifies at shortstop and second base in most leagues, and his defense is adequate enough that the Cubs will have no problem playing him at either position. If Baez can bat above .250, he will hit 20-25 home runs and steal 15-20 bases; most sites project that he will do better than that. That’s an elite offensive middle infielder.
Tomas is a little tougher to praise. The biggest problem we have is that we don’t know as much as we would like to speculate, which applies to the bad as well as the good. As I mentioned above, he didn’t actually hit a historically high number of home runs in Cuba, so the power that scouts praise is projection and not based on his track record. That being said, he is extremely strong in the forearms and wrists; he is a big kid and the power is undeniable, so it isn’t a reach to think the home runs will be too. He will play 81 games a year in Arizona’s Chase Field, which was seventh in the majors in home runs per game with 1.194 in 2014. Most touts project Tomas to hit between 25-30 home runs. For a cherry on top, in some yearly leagues he will qualify at both third base and outfield while playing extremely poor defense at both. Talk about gravy.
Now, the question is where do you draft these guys? If you’re squeamish you probably don’t draft them at all, but that’s paralysis by a lack of analysis. By tossing your hands up, crying uncle and refusing to draft them you are choosing to draft other players ahead of them; both are choices.
Baez at his best (the .240/25/20 Javier Baez) is one of the best second baseman or shortstops in Fantasy Baseball. That kind of slash line will lead second base in home runs while making him a Top 3 shortstop. A 20 stolen base season would also put him in the Top 10 at both middle infield positions. The batting average is going to sting but its nothing Brian Dozier, Jason Kipnis, Danny Santana and Ian Desmond don’t provide as well. Baez is currently being drafted as high as 76 and as low as 283, and his Average Draft Position is 158, 11th overall among second baseman and eighth among shortstops.
You should be drafting Baez as the 11th best shortstop and second baseman off the board. Draft him after players like Xander Bogaerts, Alcides Escobar and Jean Segura (this is a debatable call) and before Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. Draft him after Neil Walker, Kolten Wong, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist and Jed Gyorko (also debatable), and before Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick at second base. This factors in the expectation that Baez won’t break camp with the Cubs along with the upside potential that he is promoted by the All-Star break. I would be stunned to see Javier Baez whiffing in Triple-A on August 1.
Baez slugged nine home runs and stole five bases in 52 major league games while batting .169 in 2014. If he bats .210 in 100 games in 2015, he will slug 20 homers and steal 10 bases and be more valuable than Jhonny Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick if they all play in 145 games. Baez has significant issues, but he will be in Chicago smashing homers and stealing bags. Don’t get blinded by the ugliness and forget about the immense potential.
Tomas has more risk and less upside than Baez because of the lack of major league at bats and the fact that he can’t run worth a lick. Third base isn’t loaded with superstars, but it has a lot of Fantasy viable options that the middle infield doesn’t, so he is fighting a tougher field than Javier Baez. If he doesn’t qualify at third base on draft day don’t be concerned, it looks like he will gain eligibility soon enough. At his best, Tomas is more valuable than Pablo Sandoval or Chase Headley, and he carries a lot more risk as well. Pedro Alvarez is hardly an appealing option, but he will slug 25 home runs while having a similar batting average to Tomas, but without as much uncertainty. The one advantage that Tomas has over Baez is it looks fairly certain that Baez will start the season in Triple-A, while it looks extremely unlikely that Tomas does.
That means you should draft Tomas after Pedro Alvarez (208 ADP) and an over-drafted, but safer Pablo Sandoval (124 ADP). It also means that you should draft him ahead of an injury prone player like Brett Lawrie (20th ranked 3B with an ADP of 222) or an aging Aramis Ramirez (18th ranked 3B with an ADP of 213), or a limited Fantasy player like Matt Carpenter, who doesn’t hit or run enough for a third baseman.