Player: Leudys Baez
Date of Scouting Report: 8/27/2017
Age: 21 in 2017
How acquired: International Free Agent in 2014
Salary: Minimum for his level
Years Before Free Agency: 6
Originally signed back in 2012 by the Nationals, but released less than a year later without playing, Baez made his professional debut in 2015 and hammered the Appalachian League for four homers over 33 games before earning a promotion to Rome, where he struggled to finish the year. More struggles followed in 2016 before a serious knee injury ended his season. Opened 2017 back in Danville with a big July, that included an OPS over 1.000. He was brought back to Rome and has held his own over his first month back in the South Atlantic League.
For more biographical information, click this Random Prospect Sunday profile.
Offensive Observations and Grades:
His tools make it easy to figure out why the Braves gave Baez a $400,000 bonus as an 18-year-old. Could be capable of big power numbers with tweaks to his batting stance, but currently, sports more of a line-drive, even swing that will keep his power muted to some extent. That said, previous tweaks have led to a more balanced batting stance in which he utilizes a big leg kick to push his weight back before exploding forward. Hits the ball extremely hard. Metrics don’t yet exist in the low minors to register it, but likely rates highly in average exit velocity. Big pull numbers in the mid-to-high 40% range. Curiously, hits the ball the other way about twice as much as he hits it up the middle, suggesting that if you get him going the other way, it’ll likely lead to an out.
Routinely has had a plus-50% groundball rate despite hitting the ball so hard – which gets back to his swing. Also pops up the ball far too often. The latter likely comes back to pitch recognition, which Baez has struggled at professionally. Walk rate over the previous three seasons – 2.2%, 7.7%, 7.7%. Compare that with these strikeout rates – 22.8%, 29.7%, 22.5%. In addition, when you watch him, you get the impression that he’s simply not in the batter’s box to earn walks. He wants to hit the ball and hit it as hard as possible. Not only will such a mentality lead to strikeouts and muted walk numbers, but a heavy reliance on BABIP. When it’s good – as it has been unsustainably so this season – his numbers look tremendous. When it declines, so does his production.
To this point, Baez has flashed the typical splits for young switch-hitters who often hit right-handers better as a result of the frequency of seeing them. Against lefties, Baez has a three-season OPS run of .491, .444, 663. Compare that with his success against righties – .802, .612, .989. It’s still a small sample size because he has yet to log a complete season at full-season ball, but I can’t say I’m surprised by the data.
Baez lacks great quickness, though his top-end speed is good enough. He shows good instincts on the basepaths, though his inability to get a good jump on pitchers could keep him from having many double-digit steal seasons – if any. This season, he’s only 2-of-6 in steals and it should be remembered that he missed significant time last year with a knee injury.
Grades from a 20-80 Scale…Hit (30), Power (30), Speed (45), Baserunning (50), Eye (25), Discipline (25)
Potential Grades…Hit (50), Power (45), Speed (45), Baserunning (55), Eye (30), Discipline (30)
Pitching Observations and Grades:
Defensive Observations and Grades:
Baez was originally signed by the Nationals as a shortstop, but has only played outfield with the Braves. While he’s athletic, Baez lacks the kind of range needed to play center field. He flashes very good instincts, leading to smart routes on balls hit to the outfield, though Baez takes four-or-five steps to really get going to his top speed. Once he’s going, though, he uses above-average speed and those great instincts to track balls well. He has a very strong arm and is accurate with it, which could keep him in right field moving forward.
Grades from a 20-80 Scale at LF/RF...Range (55), Arm (65), Arm Accuracy (55), Hands (60)
Baez is a guy I called a light-switch prospect. At any point, the light switch could be flipped on and Baez could become a Top 20 organizational prospect. His pitch recognition limitations will likely keep him from climbing any further, but there is legit major league potential here. Could see him settling into a .275/.330/.475-type prime as a starter, but that’s a best-case scenario – something that rarely turns into a reality for a 21-year-old kid at low-A ball who is right now the third-best outfield prospect on his team.
Hitting left-handed (2017)
Hitting right-handed (2015)
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