Baez swinging his way to MVP-caliber season – MLB.com

Back in April, Joe Maddon had the recipe for what would turn Javier Baez from an exciting-but-flawed player into one of the game’s true superstars.

“I’ve talked about this for a bit where the moment he starts laying off the down-and-away slider, he’s Manny Ramirez,” said the Cubs’ skipper. “He’s got that kind of abilities at the plate. It’s just a matter of maturing as a hitter, which he will.”

Back in April, Joe Maddon had the recipe for what would turn Javier Baez from an exciting-but-flawed player into one of the game’s true superstars.

“I’ve talked about this for a bit where the moment he starts laying off the down-and-away slider, he’s Manny Ramirez,” said the Cubs’ skipper. “He’s got that kind of abilities at the plate. It’s just a matter of maturing as a hitter, which he will.”

Baez might not be Ramirez just yet, but he’s undeniably having the breakout season we all were waiting for. After parts of four seasons marked more by his unofficial status as “baseball’s most exciting player” than by actual production (he entered 2018 with a below-average career 90 OPS+), he is hitting .296/.330/.581 so far this year, good for a 132 OPS+. Baez has already set a career high for home runs with 25, and he’s squarely in the mix in the National League Most Valuable Player Award discussion.

Baez is also not doing anything that Maddon suggested. Baez has long been described as a “free swinger,” but his 2018 success isn’t fueled by fewer swings; he’s swinging more. He’s not chasing less; he’s chasing more. He’s not laying off those bad sliders, either; he’s going after them — wait for it — more.

Baez hasn’t made any of the plate discipline changes you’d have expected if you were

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