20-year-old Boise Hawk proving himself as hot commodity

Venezuelan Jeffrey Baez stretches hitting streak to 10 games in Boise win.

tphibbs@idahostatesman.comJuly 7, 2014 

— Outfielder Jeffrey Baez is having the best season of his career for the Boise Hawks, which typically leads to promotions in short-season Class A baseball.

But Baez is likely here to stay.

Because he's only 20 years old, the Cubs' organization has the luxury of molding Baez in the minor-league system without too much concern. With his incremental leaps this season in Boise, Chicago has an incentive to continue on the current path.

Baez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an RBI single in the second inning against Eugene on Sunday.

In that duration, Baez is 14-for-41 (.341) with two doubles, one triple, four home runs, 12 RBIs and five stolen bases. He leads the Northwest League in home runs (six) and RBIs (20), and ranks second in runs (21), total bases (46) and stolen bases (12).

"The season is still young, but he's been working with a lot of hitting coaches and trying to get better discipline," said assistant coach Guillermo Martinez, translating for Baez. "Better pitch selection."

At the beginning of the season, Boise manager Gary Van Tol pinpointed Baez as one of the top prospects on the Hawks roster, emphasizing his ability to hit from any location in the lineup and his born-to-run speed.

"Maturity and how to handle his emotions," Van Tol said when asked what improvements he has seen from Baez. "That's probably the biggest thing we focus on with these young players. I think he does a great job, and it's starting to show. I'm excited about his future."

But Kane County is the next stop on Chicago's farm, and room is limited with outfielders Jacob Hannemann, Yasiel Balaguert, Shawon Dunston Jr. and Trey Martin, and former teammate Kyle Schwarber, who rotates from catcher to outfield.

"I think for the time being, I think he's going to be here for as much time as the organization feels he needs to be," Van Tol said. "We've got some outfielders ahead of him, but in this game it comes down to performance, making progress and development."

Baez, who was acquired in 2010 as a non-drafted free agent from El Tigre, Venezuela, signed for $350,000. The Kane County Cougars' outfield has a combined salary north of $6 million. Money dictates priorities. But Baez isn't letting that hamper him.

"He just tries to give it 100 percent, whether there is a promotion or no promotion," Martinez said. "His duty is to play that day, not try to find out what the organization wants to do."

Trevor Phibbs 377-6424; Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs

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