Cubs' Baez still lacks an approach

Notes from the Royals-Cubs tilt Tuesday at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, where the Cubs tried their best to give the game away in the ninth inning but still squeaked out a 4-3 victory:

• Top Cubs prospects Kris Bryant (sore shoulder) and Jorge Soler didn't play, so the biggest name on the field to start the game was Javier Baez, whose approach was ... exactly what it was at the end of last season. To pick just one example, his at bat against Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan went as scripted: He swung way out in front of an 0-0 changeup, then got the same pitch in the same location and swung way out in front of it again, then at least got the count to 2-2 before weakly tapping to second base on yet another changeup away.

Earlier in the game, he pulled a ball foul but for home run distance, and everyone in the stadium knew he'd get an off-speed pitch away after that -- everyone but Baez, who swung and missed. Baez also later ended up getting caught stealing at third base on a 3-0 count, although that could have been called from the bench. It's the lack of any adjustment in the approach that bothers me; pitchers can get him out in predictable fashion, and he shows no recognition of the book that's out on him.

Kyle Schwarber came in to catch the last two innings, and if you saw any of the game, you got a glimpse of why most non-Cubs evaluators and execs doubt he'll remain a catcher. He's fine when the ball is in the zone or up above it, but anything down in or toward the dirt gives him a lot of trouble, and he's so strong and thick that it's hard for him to move enough to cover it. The bat might turn out to be special -- he had one at-bat on Tuesday, against Finnegan, a very tough matchup for any young left-handed hitter -- but the glove is so far away that the odds are very high that he ends up in left field.

• Finnegan was 91-94 mph and showed a plus changeup at 85-87 with great arm speed and subtle fade, a real string puller that he used repeatedly against right-handed hitters. His slider was very inconsistent, and he clearly didn't have feel for it, with several either backing up on him or just hanging. He was very good in his first inning of work, less so in his second, losing command and just generally seeming unsteady.

Finnegan's arm swing is long, and it's late relative to his landing point, so his arm and hand (the hand being attached to the arm in most cases) have a long way to travel after his front foot has hit the ground, meaning the arm is doing more work than is ideal. There is no perfect delivery, but I'm just weighing probabilities here, and the odds are that this delivery pushes him to the bullpen rather than allowing him to become a 180-inning starter. He was very effective in spurts as a starter at TCU but had shoulder soreness in his junior year, missing a few starts (never needing surgery or even a long rehab), then was a huge part of that great Royals bullpen down the stretch last year. I do not blame Kansas City for wanting to develop Finnegan as a starter, as he can show you three pitches and has the intelligence you want in a starter, but there's enough of a chance that he has to be a reliever that I also wouldn't think ill of a decision to keep him in the major league bullpen right now.

• Royals starter Danny Duffy threw four innings, and aside from a brief sequence in the third where he lost his command, he looked ready for the season to start. Duffy was up to 95, had his breaking ball working and was mostly filling up the zone outside of that one stretch where he ended up walking in the only run he gave up on the day. He was so good last year that I couldn't really call him a breakout candidate for 2015 (here are my 2015 breakout candidates), but I do think there's more to come from him now that he's fully healthy again, especially in terms of missing bats, as he has two pitches that should do so.