Javier Baez: The Next Brandon Wood?

Sup peeps?

I'm not trying to "stir" the pot here as much as I'm trying to understand the comparison here between two prospects that have seemingly similar careers. Here's Baseball Prospectus' breakdown from September 2012 on Brandon Wood, once promising young superstar:

"Moving up to full season ball in 2004, Wood was solid but not spectacular. He struggled to make consistent contact, and was showing a propensity to chase balls out of the zone. The environments of the Midwest league often depressed the game power, but you could tell Wood had something special in that bat; his hands were extremely fast and strong, and he could generate tremendous bat speed. With deep hands in the load, Wood brought leverage to the table that could launch a bowling ball over a mountain, and his tape measure shots in batting practice tickled all the ticklish parts of the scouts in attendance. Despite the swing-and-miss that remained in his game, the 19-year-old more than held his own in a difficult full season league; with the friendlier confines of the California League awaiting him in 2005, an offensive breakout was entirely possible.

What happened in 2005 would change the way we view Brandon Wood the prospect and the player forever, as the predicted breakout turned into a violent explosion of offensive potential so intense that many national prognosticators named their first-born after him. In 130 games in the hitter-friendly California League, Wood hit 43 bombs, many of which still haven’t landed. His overall ability to make contact had improved, and if you were a pitcher without a major league fastball, Wood was going to emasculate you in front of your teammates, coaches, parents, friends, and pets. He topped off his seasonal chef-d’oeuvre by hitting 14 in the Arizona Fall League, and based on the positive chatter at the time, Wood could have run for public office and won in a landslide. The numbers looked great, but the swing-and-miss was a growing pachyderm for some; others simply suggested that high strikeout totals would always be a big part of his game, and as long as the power continued to play, everything would be fine and the world was wonderful and Brandon Wood was a hero and power is sexy.

Double-A would be a big test for the big hitter with the big swing, and sure enough, the big miss in that big swing was asking for more of the spotlight. In over 500 plate appearances, Wood whiffed an alarming 149 times against Texas League pitching, and the concerns over his offensive deficiencies were mounting. He was still able to show off his pop, with 71 extra base hits, including 25 fence rips, which continued to be a wall of defense against his weaknesses and allowed his prospect status to remain prominently displayed on the prospect landscape. The book on Wood in 2006 still had a happy ending, although the narrative was a bit optimistic for some; those that watched Wood struggle against off-speed pitches or quality velocity above the hands saw a hitter that wouldn’t be able to replicate his minor league heroics against major league pitching. His value was still very high, as his defensive skill set could keep him at shortstop, although his tools on that side of the ball weren’t exceptional and his profile had more quality at the hot corner. When he did make contact, the ball still exploded off his bat, and if you made a mistake or showed up to the ballpark with weak stuff, Wood was likely to make you remember the experience for a long time."

I did my best to highlight the most important parts of the article, and I thought they really did stand out as something that relates strongly to Baez's current approach and how he goes about hitting the ball.

Brandon Wood's 2004-2006 Stats:

2004: 19 Years Old, Low A Midwest League: 535 PA, 117 SO (21.9% K/PA), 46 BB (8.6% BB/PA)

2005: 20 Years Old, High A California League: 595 PA, 128 SO (21.5% K/PA), 48 BB (8.1% BB/PA)

2006: 21 Years Old, Double A Texas League: 522 PA, 149 SO (28.5% K/PA), 54 BB (10.3% BB/PA)

Javier Baez's 2012-2013 Stats:

2012: 19 Years Old, Low A Midwest League: 235 PA, 48 SO (20.4% K/PA), 9 BB (3.8% BB/PA)

2012: 19 Years Old, High A Florida League: 86 PA, 21 SO (24.4% K/PA), 5 BB (5.8% BB/PA)

2013: 20 Years Old, High A Florida League: 337 PA, 78 SO (23.1% K/PA), 21 BB (6.2% BB/PA)

2013: 20 Years Old, Double A Southern League: 240 PA, 69 SO (28.8% K/PA), 19 BB (7.9% BB/PA)

Now, I don't want to incite anything here, or light any fires here. I am personally split on Baez. However, many times when someone asks about Brandon Wood, they say "the numbers were blinding and people didn't scout him."

I believe that these K-rates are important, and I think that it's important to note that Baez did player in worse leagues. On the other hand, Wood's walking ability far surpasses that of Baez, where Baez's best experiences wouldn't have eclipsed the lowest walk totals for Wood.When considering counting stats, Baez has a career line of .286/.342/.562, where Wood put up a line of .285/.354/.547 in 2004-2006. Their OPS's are a creepy 0.003 off (Baez: .903, Wood: .900). Here are some more numbers for a better understanding:

Counting Stats:

Baez Low A: 235 PA, 12 HR, 20 SB (19.58 PA/HR, 11.75 PA/SB)

Baez High A: 423 PA, 21 HR, 16 SB (20.14 PA/HR, 26.44 PA/SB)

Baez Double A: 240 PA, 20 HR, 8 SB (12 PA/HR, 30 PA/SB)


Wood Low A: 535 PA, 11 HR, 21 SB (48.64 PA/HR, 25.48 PA/SB)

Wood High A: 595 PA, 43 HR, 7 SB (13.84 PA/HR, 85 PA/SB)

Wood Double A: 522 PA, 25 HR, 19 SB (20.88 PA/HR, 27.47 PA/SB)

Clearly Baez presents a strong counting stat edge here, especially with prolific HR totals in small at bats. The one thing to note is that Baez didn't spend a ton of time in any one league. Therefore, pitchers may not have adapted quickly enough to capitalize on his swing mechanics, and perhaps he held the advantage over the last two years by not needing to adjust to a pitcher, because the pitchers never had a chance to adjust to him. This could be something that would cause a future prolonged cold streak in the future if he has to take the time to figure out how to counter pitchers' adjustments. Otherwise, I maintain that I think that their scouting reports are eerily similar, and that they both put up some pretty nifty stats at a relatively young age in the low to mid minors. I'm not calling Baez a future bust here, but I do want to question the understanding of how we go about prospecting and learning from our mistakes.

After reading up on many of the things that people say about Brandon Wood, and how he collapsed when he couldn't play in hitters leagues, I wonder if the same thing will happen when Baez moves up from the minor leagues to the big leagues. I think the PCL could be toxic for him, provoking him to try to smash every ball out of the park. I don't have any skin in this game, as I'm not related to the Cubs and don't necessarily have anything but pity for them (Go Cards!), but I am just curious in this case. Everyone refers to how we can always reevaluate the players that we evaluated long ago, and begin to understand why they failed. Well, I have come to believe that perhaps this insanely high strikeout rate, even when attached to a player with large amounts of "bat speed" and "quick wrists" can end up causing serious future problems.

I'd enjoy everyone to weigh in, perhaps in a constructive and discussionary manner in order to fester some conversation on this topic, as I've seen it scattered throughout the site without one "hub" for it. I figured, organizing my ideas in a fanpost would best suit the community and giving detailed background as to why I thought they might be very similar is probably the best way to go about this.

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