CHICAGO -- Cubs executive vice president and general manager Jed Hoyer has deemed the organization's top prospect, Javier Baez, ready for the next step.
The promising 20-year-old shortstop was promoted from Class A Advanced Daytona to Double-A Tennessee on Saturday, marking the next phase in Baez's development from a 2011 first-round Draft pick into a Major League-ready player.
Baez backed up the decision, sending the first pitch he saw from Brewers second-ranked prospect Taylor Jungmann into the seats for a solo homer. He finished his Double-A debut 1-for-4 out of the three-hole.
"He's obviously had a monster month at the plate," Hoyer said. "He's played better defense. He's been a good teammate. It's time for a new challenge for Javy, and I think he'll respond well to it. It's the right time for us to do it."
Baez hit .274 with a .338 on-base percentage, 17 home runs and 57 RBIs in 76 games with Daytona this season, but Hoyer said a big reason for the promotion was an increase in walks over the past month and a declining strikeout rate. While Baez still has some unfocused at-bats and needs to cut out careless plays in the field that Hoyer likened to Starlin Castro when he first emerged as a top prospect, the production in Class A was finally too great to ignore. Baez ranked second in the Florida State League with 160 total bases, fifth in slugging percentage with a .535 mark and sixth with 82 hits.
Hoyer said Baez's promotion is about a month ahead of the plan the Cubs laid out for the shortstop at the beginning of the season. The club promoted Baez to Daytona at the end of last season, but he initially struggled. He hit .188 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 23 games before coming back this season and proving he could excel at the that level.
"At the end of last year, we sent him to high-A for about a month," Hoyer said. "This year, that was kind of the plan. He pushed us a little bit with the way he's played over the last month. We thought it was time for a new challenge for him."
Hoyer called the transition from high-A to Double-A the toughest before making the jump to the big leagues, but the organization is confident Baez can make the necessary adjustments over the last couple months of the Minor League season.
"I think there'll probably be some growing pains," Hoyer said. "There usually are at the beginning of every level, similar to what he went through last year, when he went to Daytona. But he responded this year really well. It's time to do that."
• Hoyer said the Cubs might have discussed promoting 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora from Class A Kane County if the outfielder hadn't missed the first month of the season with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Entering Saturday, Almora was hitting .340 with a .373 on-base percentage, three home runs and 18 RBIs in 36 games with Kane County. The Cubs are still in the process of evaluating their second-ranked prospect at Class A.
• Hoyer said he's not concerned about the impending July 12 deadline to sign players from the First-Year Player Draft, even though the San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, the second overall pick, remains unsigned.
"It's not white-knuckle time," Hoyer said. "Sometimes deadlines are what gets things done. I'm glad they moved the deadline up a month so we don't have to wait until mid-August. He can still have a little bit of a summer of playing. We're certainly hopeful and optimistic that a deal will get done on the 12th, or hopefully before then. We're going to be really fair to him with what we offer. We want him to be a Cub certainly, and hopefully what we offer will enable that to happen."
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.