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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Cubs minor leaguer Baez hits four HRs

By David Schoenfield

Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez -- the Cubs' top prospect on No. 31 on Keith Law's top 100 -- showed on Monday night why his upside is high, as he hit four home runs, becoming just the second player in Florida State League history to do so. (Ryan Harvey, a former Cubs prospect, was the other player, doing so in 2011.)

Before the season, Keith mentioned Baez's quick bat -- maybe the best bat speed of anyone in the minors -- and his 30-homer potential. The question was whether Baez could keep the swing under control. On Monday night, he obviously did that.

"His swing seemed a lot more under control tonight," Daytona manager Dave Keller told "Sometimes he gets too aggressive. (Hitting coach) Mariano (Duncan) has spent a lot of time with him talking about keeping his balance and not swinging so hard that he can't stay on the ball. He already has tremendous bat speed and he can hit the ball a long way. After that second home run, I was telling Mariano that it was the best swing I have seen him take. It was free and relaxed and he laced that ball. It was the best swing he's taken on a pitch all year."

The big night lifted Baez's season line to .291/.339/.570 with 13 home runs in 230 at-bats. His strikeout and walk rates still need some work -- 60 strikeouts against just 11 walks -- but for a 20-year-old in a league where pitchers often dominate, the slugging is impressive.

Baez was the ninth pick in the 2011 draft -- Jose Fernandez, now with the Marlins, was still on the board -- but the Cubs have to be happy with how the pick is working out so far. With 2012 first-round outfielder Albert Almora off to a good start in the Midwest League (.423 in 17 games after starting late recovering from a broken hamate bone in his left hand). Here's a recent video feature on Almora.

Almora's teammate on Kane County is 20-year-old first basemann Dan Vogelbach, who is built a bit like Prince Fielder but also possesses Fielder's raw power. He's hitting .273 with 11 home runs after hitting 17 in 61 games in the low minors in 2011. Vogelbach was the club's second-round pick after Baez in 2011.

With Anthony Rizzo looking good for the big league, Cubs fans can dream of some help on the way. Now if only Starlin Castro can get straightened out ...