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Ednel Javier “Javy” Báez is a Puerto Rican professional baseball infielder for the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB). Born in Puerto Rico, Báez went to high school in Jacksonville, Florida, and starred for his school’s baseball team. The Cubs picked Báez with the ninth overall selection of the 2011 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut on August 5, 2014.
He is the first player for the Cubs to steal home in a postseason game since Jimmy Slagle in 1907. On October 2016, Báez was named NLCS co-MVP together with left-handed starter Jon Lester as the Chicago Cubs clinched their 2016 National League pennant.
The Chicago Cubs, led by Jim Hendry, selected Báez in the first round, with the ninth overall choice, of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. He started his professional career by playing shortstop for the Arizona Cubs of the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he only played in 3 games, recording three hits, including 2 doubles, in 12 at-bats and two stolen bases. Promoted to the Boise Hawks of the Class A-Short Season Northwest League, Báez recorded one single in six at bats throughout 2 games. On September 29, 2011, he was picked third overall by the Leones de Ponce in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente’s (LBPRC) rookie draft, however has yet to play there due to the Cubs’ restrictions.
Before the 2012 season, MLB.com ranked Báez as the 62nd best prospect in baseball. He stayed with the Cubs in extended spring training with other potential customers, participating in 26 games and hitting 6 doubles, 3 triples and 8 home runs, with 28 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and 23 strikeouts in 94 plate appearances. He made his regular season debut with the Peoria Chiefs of the Class A Midwest League. He was promoted to the Daytona Cubs of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League (FSL). Baseball America included Báez in two of its “Best Tools” lists, calling him the “Most Exciting Player in the Midwest League” and the “Best Defensive Infielder” in the Chicago Cubs system.
Prior to the 2013 season, MLB.com rated Báez as the 16th best prospect in baseball. The Cubs invited him to join their major league team in spring training, contending in the Cactus League. Báez hit 4 home runs in five at-bats throughout 2 games, including in an informal exhibition game versus the Japanese national baseball team that was preparing for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He concluded spring training with a .298 batting average and 10 RBIs. Báez went back to the Daytona Cubs to open the 2013 season. On June 10, 2013, Báez hit four home runs in one game, ending up being the second player to do so in the history of the FSL. Báez was named one of the 5 finalists in the fan vote for the final spot on the World Team’s roster for the 2013 All-Star Futures Game, however he finished second to Carlos Correa.
On July 6, 2013, the Cubs promoted Báez to the Tennessee Smokies of the Class AA Southern League after showing more plate discipline and walking more often during the previous month. Báez was named to both the FSL and Southern League All-Star teams at the conclusion of the season. The Cubs named him their Minor League Player of the Year, closing the season as the top-ranked possibility in the team’s system and third overall in the Southern League. On October 28, 2013, Báez won the MiLBY Award for Best Minor League Game of the Year, recognizing his four-home run game.
The Cubs invited Báez to spring training in 2014. An injury suffered by Starlin Castro allowed him regular playing time. To increase his flexibility, Báez began practicing at second base and third base. He was reassigned to Minor League camp throughout the final week of spring training. Troubled by a back injury, he opened his involvement with the Iowa Cubs of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League (PCL) immersed in a downturn, with his only hit in 20 at bats being the first home run of the season. Throughout the second week of the season, Báez had his first multi-hit game and hit a second home run before being placed on the seven-day disabled list with an ankle sprain. Báez dropped following his return, and his batting average fell below .150 in May, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio got worse. With a more patient approach at the plate, Báez began a hitting streak on May 16, 2014. On May 26, 2014, Báez was named the PCL Player of the Week for the previous week.
On May 22, 2014, the Cangrejeros de Santurce of the LBPRC signed Báez by making use of a legal loophole that allowed players to be considered free agents unless properly signed within three years of being drafted. However, the Leones de Ponce quickly reclaimed his regional player rights, claiming that they had actually approached him with the intent of formalizing a contract however that the “extreme tiredness” provision of the Winter League Agreement had actually interfered.
On August 5, the Cubs promoted Báez to the major leagues. In his debut that day, he hit his first career home run; the game-winner in the 12th inning victory against the Colorado Rockies, becoming the first player since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit an additional innings home run in his debut. In his third game, Báez hit two home runs, ending up being the first player since Joe Cunningham in 1954 to hit 3 home runs in his first 3 MLB games. On August 18, 2014, Báez hit his 5th home run in 14 games, signing up with Jason Kipnis as the only other second baseman to do so in the last 100 years.
On September 2, Castro injured himself in an uncomfortable slide in the house plate and did not return for the remainder of the year. Báez finished the season at shortstop. In 52 games with the Cubs in 2014, Báez struck out 95 times while batting .169 with 5 stolen bases, 9 home runs, and 20 RBI.
After a rough Spring Training, primarily due to a high number of strikeouts, the Cubs optioned Báez to Triple-A on March 30, 2015.
He was then called up as a part of September call-ups on September 1. Báez hit his first home run of the season September 4 in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. His three-run home run in the second inning of game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals helped the Cubs to a 6-4 win as they advanced to the National League Championship Series.
On May 8, 2016, in the last game of a four-game series at Wrigley Field, Báez hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to lead the Cubs to a 4-3 victory and a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. On June 28, Báez hit a grand slam in the 15th inning to lead the Cubs in a win over the Cincinnati Reds.
On October 7, in Game 1 of the 2016 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, Báez hit a solo home run off Giants starter Johnny Cueto in the 8th inning to account for the only run in a 1-0 Cubs victory. It was the first 1-0 win in a championship game for the Cubs since game 4 of the 1906 World Series against the Chicago White Sox. In Game 4, Báez drove in Jason Heyward to top off a four-run rally in the top of the ninth, sending out the Cubs to the 2016 National League Championship Series with a 6-5 victory.
On October 15, 2016, throughout the first game of the 2016 National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Báez stole home in the second inning. He was the first Cub to do this in a postseason game since 1907 when Jimmy Slagle accomplished this against the Detroit Tigers in game four of the 1907 World Series. Báez is also only one of 19 players in baseball history to steal home in a championship game. Báez and Jon Lester were named NLCS co-MVPs, after Báez hit .318 with 5 RBIs, four doubles, and two stolen bases in the series, consisting of three hits and three RBIs in Game 5. Baez would become part of the Cubs 2016 World Series win against the Cleveland Indians in 7 games, making him his first World Series championship.