Cards pony up to lure CF Báez from Vandy

July 19th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- Joshua Báez, the Cardinals' second-round pick from the 2021 MLB Draft, wants to be in the Major Leagues in two to three years, he said on Monday, drenched in sweat and pride after taking batting practice at humid Busch Stadium and officially joining the Cardinals' organization.

And that may not have been the loftiest goal he set out for himself:

“A lot of people talk about how I’m kind of like Mike Trout,” Báez said. “I'm like, I just want to be better than Mike Trout and just want to be the face of the game one day.”

Báez has the chance to accomplish those goals with the Cardinals, now that he's signed his first professional contract, the club announced prior to Monday’s series opener against the Cubs, and one that took a lofty monetary pact.

The Cardinals took a chance on spending a second-round pick to get the 18-year-old Báez, unsure whether they'd lure him away from his commitment to Vanderbilt, and they got him. Baez's signing bonus is for $2.25 million -- nearly $1 million over the slot value for the 54th overall pick, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, and only $500,000 below what Cardinals first-rounder Michael McGreevy (18th overall) received. The club has not confirmed Báez's signing figures.

With that bonus, Báez said he plans to buy a house for his mother, Iris, who was with him at Busch Stadium on Monday as he took batting practice in his future home for the first time. Standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he showed that he can hit a few out at a big league ballpark.

“It’s an unbelievable experience. This is just a dream come true, honestly,” Báez said. “... I would love to be here within 2-3 years, but for now it's just about getting better and continuing to move up in the levels.”

Until then, though, Báez will head to the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter, Fla., for intake and ramp-up toward the start of his professional career. He’ll join several other Cardinals Draft picks, but he’ll stick out in one specific way.

Báez was one of just three high schoolers taken by the Cardinals in this Draft, out of Dexter Southfield School just outside of Boston, and he is the only one to sign so far. He spent his childhood primarily in the Dominican Republic before moving back to Boston at the age of 11, having to learn English at an elevated age.

But at Dexter Southfield, Báez transformed himself into one of the top college recruits in the country, fully ready to go to Vanderbilt before the Cardinals gave him a surprise phone call on Day 2 of the Draft. He still plans to go back to school, he said.

Scouts lauded Báez , who entered the Draft as the No. 24 ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, for some of the best raw power in the 2021 Draft, noting that he needs to cut down on swing-and-miss but has made a habit of hitting balls with exit velocities north of 100 mph. In the field, Báez could stick in center, but his strong arm (clocked at 97 mph on the mound) could serve him well if he transitions to right field.

Báez , whose announcement came before the Cardinals embarked on a four-game set against the Cubs, especially looked forward to meeting Yadier Molina and Nolan Arenado in the Cardinals' clubhouse. Before that, he took a few minutes to meet Chicago shortstop Javier Báez on the Busch Stadium field.

A J. Báez on the Cubs, and now, a J. Báez on the Cardinals.

More Draft picks sign
The Cardinals announced the signing of six more Draft picks on Monday: right-hander Zane Mills (fourth-rounder, Washington State), right-hander Gordon Graceffo (fifth-rounder, Villanova), left-hander Alex Cornwell (15th-rounder, USC), catcher Aaron McKeithan (16th-rounder, Charlotte), right-hander Andrew Marrero (18th-round, UConn) and first baseman Thomas Francisco (19th-rounder, East Carolina).

Graceffo signed for $300,000, just under the $353,700 slot value for the 151st overall pick, according to Callis. St. Louis has signed all but three of its selections from the top 10 rounds.