For the fifth game in a row, Chicago Cubs Rookie, Javier Baez is playing second base and bat second, but does he fit the profile of the typical number two hitter? In the traditional sense, NO. Typically, your second hitter is a guy who has great bat control and a high on base percentage. He’s the guy who can lay down a bunt or hit a ground ball to the right side to move your leadoff guy over or he can draw a walk to get someone on base in front of your three, four and five hitters. In all honesty, Baez doesn’t walk enough and strikes out and swings for the fences far too often to fit the classic definition of a two hitter.
But Baez does fit the profile of the “new age” number two hitter. In recent years, the role of the number two hitter has changed dramatically and we have seen guys like Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mike Trout slotted there on a regular basis. Here’s how a 162-game average of Baez’s minor league stats compares to some of the game’s best two hitters from 2013:
(Stats per Paul White, USA Today) * MLB stats are from 260-440 at-bat sample size
Assuming that Baez’s minor league stats (roughly) translate at the big league level he fits the mold as the “new prototypical” second hitter. Entering play today, Baez’s slash line looks like this: .263/.263/.737, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 games.
One might think that the Cubs would want to use Baez out of the 4-hole in an effort to lengthen the lineup and move Starlin Castro to a more productive spot in the lineup; Castro’s slash line as a clean-up hitter is .277/.332/.430 this year but since 2011 his slash line as a lead-off hitter has been noticeably better: .302/.348/.435, according to ESPN.com. But the decision to hit Baez second gives the youngster a chance to get more at bats and could allow him to see more fastballs hitting in front of Anthony Rizzo, who is currently second in the National League in home runs.
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