Prospects are babies. They’re eagerly anticipated, they’re evaluated by their ceilings, their arrivals are memorable and frequently painful, and these days they’re traded for goods less than ever. They continue to be interesting for a handful of months, but then they start to develop into more fully-formed people, and the magic of limitless possibility disintegrates. Sometimes they turn into remarkable things, more often they turn into unremarkable things, and regardless, it doesn’t take long before they’re taken for granted. Toward the beginning, everything is celebrated. Later on, mistakes aren’t so novel, they aren’t so easy to explain away.
Javier Baez still counts as a prospect, even though his big-league career is weeks underway. He’s among the most exciting prospects we’ve seen in baseball in some years, and though it’s a certainty that he’ll be less compelling a year or two from now, at the moment everything he’s involved in can be turned into a highlight. If he were a real baby, all his activity would be posted on Facebook. Some people might already be getting Baez fatigue, but I’m not one of them, and even if I were, I’d probably make an exception for a showdown between Baez and a similarly extreme sort of pitcher. A pitcher like, I don’t know, Aroldis Chapman. Who Baez faced for the first time on Wednesday night in the top of the ninth of a close game.
Earlier this season, people paid a lot of attention to an at-bat between Kenley Jansen and Miguel Cabrera. It was compelling, because both Jansen and Cabrera are extremely talented. Chapman vs. Baez is compelling because both players are extremely powerful. There’s no one who throws harder than Aroldis Chapman. There might be no one who swings harder than Javier Baez.Who wouldn’t want to watch them go head-to-head over and over? They haven’t yet gone head-to-head over and over, but they have gone head-to-head once. Let’s put that at-bat under the microscope.