It took him 12 innings, but Javier Baez finally got his first major league hit in his sixth at-bat in his major league debut Tuesday night.
He made it count.
Baez, who started at second base and hit second in the Chicago lineup, entered that frame having gone 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in what had been a see-saw game. The Rockies took an early 3-0 lead off Travis Wood. Chicago went ahead 4-3 against the Rockies’ bullpen in the top of the seventh. Colorado tied things up on a Nolan Arenado home run off lefty Wesley Wright in the bottom of that inning, and that 4-4 tie persisted until the top of the 11th, when Starlin Castro hit Adam Ottavino’s first pitch of the inning for a double and later came around to score on a Ryan Sweeney single. Down to their last strike with runners on first and second, the Rockies again tied things up when Charlie Culberson singled home Jason Pridie in the bottom of the 11th. Then came Baez.
Leading off the 12th inning, Baez hit the first pitch he saw from lefty Boone Logan into the Rockies bullpen in the right-field gap, an opposite-field home run that went in the same general direction as his Futures Game blast.
Including his work at Triple-A, where he hit .260/.323/.510 including a .309/.376/.619 performance with 14 home runs in his last 205 plate appearances, that was Baez’s 24th home run of the season, and his 61st in 235 games across four levels since the start of the 2013 season. That works out to 42 home runs per 162 games. As Tuesday night’s game neatly summarized, the 21-year-old Baez’s power is a given, but there are concerns about his poor contact rates and overly aggressive plate approach. Indeed, Baez brings to mind Reggie Jackson and Adrian Beltre with his maximum-effort swing, which often leaves him twisted like pretzel or down on one knee after missing a pitch. Of course, those are two pretty good hitters. There’s little doubt that he’ll have his struggles and will go through a possibly significant adjustment period, as he did earlier this year at Triple-A. However, given his youth and his success at each successive minor league level, particularly his improvement over the course of this season at Triple-A, I’m suspect he’ll be just fine. Either way, he’ll be a lot of fun to watch.