Javier Báez is fun to watch. From unbelievable plays in the field, to creative slides, to big cuts at the plate, he makes baseball entertaining. The man known as “El Mago” is famous for his defensive magic, but he is also entertaining at the plate, because he likes to swing the bat. His career 55.8 Swing % indicates that he is a free swinger and this year has been no different with a 56.8 Swing %, which is the 5th highest in the league. Since being traded to the Mets, Báez has continued to provide solid defense at both 2B and SS, but his offense has been the key to his success in New York.
After struggling to a 103 wRC+ for four months in Chicago, Báez was traded to the Mets at the end of June this year. As a Cub his 4.2 BB% and 36.3 K% were both on the wrong side of his career averages and it looked like he was struggling at the plate. Javier was solid defensively at shortstop and running the bases well, but he wasn’t providing the offensive value he is capable of producing. The power Báez provided (33 XBH in 91 G) seemed empty considering his .292 OBP, but he has made some adjustments that have boosted his offensive value on the Mets.
Adjustments On Offense
When he makes contact, Javier hits the ball hard. Throughout his career his Max Exit Velocity and Average Exit Velocity have consistently been in the top third of the league. His biggest problem is deciding which pitches to swing at. This year Báez has been taking advantage of mistakes over the heart of the plate and he has been significantly more disciplined on balls well off the plate. His better swing decisions have led to a 6% increase in his zone contact rate from his 2021 season in Chicago. Combining Javier’s natural talent with better pitch selection has led to an improved 7.8 BB% and a 27.3 K% with the Mets. He has also been hitting more line drives with the Mets than with the Cubs, which I think has contributed to his boost in batting average.
While we are dealing with a small sample size, Javi has also shown an ability to hit the ball to the opposite field in his time with the Mets. His 31.6% opposite field rate in 154 PA’s is significantly higher than his career 23.8% mark. Báez’s willingness to go the other way increases the number of pitches he can drive, and when he gets his bat on the ball it usually goes a long way.
Mashing With The Mets
Báez is slashing .307/.383/.555, good for a 156 wRC+ in 39 games as a Met. He has done his job and then some, providing solid defense and good base running to go along with a .938 OPS. El Mago has been on fire in September slashing .380/.470/.648 which translates to a 203 wRC+. It’s clear that he is a very talented player, but he can make the jump to one of the best in the league if he can continue to improve his plate discipline. This great offensive run should help Báez in free agency this year, but it will be interesting to see how the market shakes out in 2022 with one of the most talented free agent classes in recent memory. If Javier can keep his K-BB% around 20%, he has a long and bright career ahead of him considering he is just 28 years-old.