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Minors: Bryant player of week; Baez labors

5/12/2014

ST. LOUIS -- While Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez continues to struggle at Triple-A Iowa, their second-ranked minor leaguer just won Player of the Week honors in Double-A.

Kris Bryant had a monster seven days for the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League, as he hit four home runs, drove in 14 and had four multihit games.

“Those are all great things to build on,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said before his team played the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. “As they chip away and gain more and more experience in the minor leagues, continue to develop their skills, it brings them a little bit close to ultimately where everyone expects them to be down the road. Even when they get here, at some point, whenever that is, it’s all still a learning experience as we can tell from a lot of the guys we have here now.”

Like others in the Cubs organization, Renteria made sure to choose his words carefully in discussing the future of Bryant. It’s not clear when he might get promoted to Triple-A and join Baez. For the season, Bryant is hitting .331 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .437. Baez is on the other end of the spectrum. He has struggled since Day 1 this year.

“He’s in Triple-A right now,” Renteria said. “He has to develop his major league skills.”

Baez is hitting .151 with three home runs and 38 strikeouts in 25 games going into action on Monday. That’s not going to get him a promotion to the big leagues any time soon. Renteria noted Baez’ slow start in 2013 and wants to give him a chance to adjust.

“He’s going to face guys that have been up and down in the big leagues,” Renteria said. “He has to understand they know what they’re doing. The little game between the game.”

Does Baez have that ability? The Cubs often have said spring training wasn’t a good time to judge a free swinger like him, though Renteria noted at the time his adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. But maybe the monster home runs overshadowed some lingering problems. The expectation, at least among fans, was that he would rip up Triple-A pitching and be in the majors by midseason. However, it has been Bryant who has shown the ability to learn and adjust this year.

“[Baez] has to draw them into the web, so to speak,” Renteria said.

He’s referencing the cat-and-mouse game that occurs between hitter and pitcher. Right now Bryant is winning his game, while Baez is getting beat.

“He has to grow some patience,” Renteria said of Baez. “Those are positive things for us. Patience is going to be something he has to have. Once people see him put the barrel on the ball, they’re more likely not to want to give him anything to hit.”

So far Bryant has struck out 43 times in 36 games. But the difference between the two players is the strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s important for sluggers. Bryant is a little more than 2-to-1 while Baez is nearly at 4-to-1. Maybe that’s just one reason one is Player of the Week and the other continues to struggle.