The Chicago Cubs are a surprisingly good baseball team in 2021, so much that they find themselves in the first place of the National League Central division with a solid 39-30 record.
If the Cubs had the intention to be sellers at the deadline knowing they have several star-caliber players on expiring deals, those plans will have to wait.
While the roster is good and most of the players with a reputation of being stars can be considered as such, there is one player who is continually being rated as a top-five performer in his position who doesn’t have the stats to back such a claim.
Reasons to be excited?
Báez top 5 shortstop
Bryant top 10 3rd baseman
Rizzo top 10 first baseman
Contreras top 10 catcher
Nico up and coming talent
Schwarber 40+HR guy
All on the same team!
If they click we can put up tons of runs per game. Why not be excited?
— Cubs_4_Life (@EddieCubs) February 2, 2020
Javier Baez Is Very Good, But Is He Elite?
Over the course of his career, which has been spent with the Cubs in its entirety, Javier Baez has shown he is a solid ballplayer.
He is, however, a tad overrated by the Cubs’ fanbase.
According to FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, Baez is nowhere near the top five shortstops in 2021.
Baez ranks 13th among MLB shortstops with 1.3 WAR, far from the leader, Xander Bogaerts, who has 3.4.
It’s true that Baez missed a handful of games and WAR is a counting stat, but Brandon Crawford has played the same 60 games as Baez, Tim Anderson has a higher WAR with 55 games, and Galvis, Rojas, and Polanco only have a handful of additional contests on the Cubs infielder.
For the season, Baez’s hitting line leaves something to be desired: he is, as of Friday afternoon, at .232/.269/.478 with a 101 weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+.
The wRC+ stat allows us to determine whether a player has contributed above or below-average offense, with 100 being considered average.
Essentially, Baez has been an average offensive performer in 2021.
For his career, Baez has a .262/.301/.474 line, with a 101 wRC+.
What does that tell you?
He is an average hitter.
Comparing Baez With Other Top Shortstops
He does have pop and speed, so again, it’s not like he is a bad player.
However, he can’t be considered a top-five shortstop while being an average hitter with a good glove.
Even Francisco Lindor, who is universally considered a great fielder and a good batter, has a 116 career wRC+.
Several people have them in similar tiers, when it’s clear Lindor is more proven and has more offensive upside.
If we consider the last five seasons, from 2017 to 2021 (which provides us with a larger sample size), Baez is eighth in FanGraphs’ WAR version.
If we remove Machado under the argument he has played more third base recently, Baez goes up to seventh.
However, since WAR is a counting stat, it should be noted that Baez has achieved 13.5 WAR since 2017 in 562 games.
🚨 ALERT: according to multiple reports, Javier Baez has tested positive…….
For being the most overrated player in baseball. pic.twitter.com/8JVoiIniOE
— STL Sports Central (@stlsportscntrl) March 22, 2020
It’s fair to wonder if they would have more WAR than Baez with a similar number of games played.
All in all, Baez has his strengths, but he is a little overrated and by no means a top-five shortstop.