By: Chris Larson
Javier Baez has always been one of the Cubs most talented players, not named Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, but Baez has really stepped up his game this year and proven to the entire baseball world exactly what type of athlete he can be. For the past couple of seasons, Cubs fans and the rest of baseball alike, have been waiting for Javier Baez to grow into the player that Cubs scouts expected him to be and it appears as though, that transformation has taken place before our very eyes, this year.
As you survey the landscape of baseball, there are very few players who have the qualities that Javier Baez displays on the field day in and day out. Baez has the athleticism as demonstrated by the brilliant plays that he makes up the middle of the field, the intensity as illustrated by the energy and enthusiasm he shows especially during the big moments, and the passion for the game. All three of those are hard qualities to find in a baseball player and all three should be the true defining characteristics of what an MVP caliber player is.
Furthermore, as you watch the baseball highlight reels every night, Javier Baez is constantly on them and always doing something to help the Cubs win a ballgame. Everyone has different theories about what qualifies a player as being MVP caliber, but you certainly can't ignore the team contributions that Javier Baez makes or the things he does to help the Cubs capture a series win or even a sweep. All of those qualities should play into Javier Baez's case to be the NL MVP, but let's not forget about his impressive stats either.
Heading into play today, Javier Baez is currently hitting: .297/.328/.575 over 546 plate appearances with 153 hits, 35 doubles, 9 triples, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 21 walks, and 134 strikeouts. Both his slugging percentage (.575) and the amount of RBI that, he has raked up so far (100), are career highs. In addition, Baez has a career high Isolated Power (ISO) value of .278 and a career high Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) of .374 with a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of 135.
Among the rest of the players in baseball, Baez 30 home runs ties him with, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, ties him third in RBI (100) with, Eugenio Saurez of the Cincinnati Reds, and he ranks fifth in slugging percentage (.575) behind other MVP caliber names including: J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Jose Ramirez. If you base your MVP decision solely off of stats, Javier Baez has more than enough impressive stats to be a serious contender in the NL MVP race.
Better yet, Javier Baez isn't a player, who is only one-sided with great offensive numbers, but someone who has lackluster base running skills either. To this point of the season, Baez has raked up 21 stolen bases, which puts him in the Top 15 among qualified hitters in the game, and has an overall Baserunning (BsR) of 2.5. The Cubs, along with skipper Joe Maddon, know that Javier Baez doesn't only possess a very good chance of getting on base during critical situations, but that he has the speed necessary to steal a base or even score, when a run is needed the most.
If you still aren't sold about Javier Baez being the favorite for the NL MVP and need even more reasoning to support him, look no further than the versatility that he provides on the field. In the game today, it is becoming more and more common for players to play more than one position, but very few players can handle the workload and the shift in positions better than Javier Baez. That becomes a critical weapon for Joe Maddon, who is a big fan of matchups and putting his players in position to succeed, especially during a game that is on the line and once October rolls around.
Regardless of how you slice it, Javier Baez is a player that displays athleticism, intensity, and passion on the baseball field everyday. Those three traits, in and of themselves, are not common among many of today's players, but define the exact style of play that Javier Baez. If that isn't enough to win the NL MVP award, along with his impressive offensive numbers and overall contributions to the Cubs, then the voters have missed the mark and not truly voted for the best player in the National League.