LEFT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: December 27, 1987
Height: 6′ 3″
Drafted: 5th Round, 145th Overall, 2009
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of Mississippi
Agent: Steve Rath, Beverly Hills Sports Council
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Baker’s draft stock gained after he bounced back from a mediocre sophomore season, partly due to an increase in velocity. He throws around 88-92, which is decent for a lefty, and also has a slider and change, with the latter being his best pitch. His K rate jumped significantly in his junior season. He showed good control in college but paid for it with some gopher ball problems. Baker signed in late July.
Pitched at State College, but innings were limited. He allowed just 11 hits and two walks in 16 innings, but also fanned only nine.
Baker pitched the first two-thirds of the season at West Virginia. Justin Wilson, a LHP who was also a 5th round pick the previous year, opened at Lynchburg despite not pitching at all for State College, but he struggled through the first half of the season. That may have influenced the Pirates’ thinking with Baker, or it could be they decided he wasn’t as advanced as Wilson. He did well without dominating in the SAL, allowing few baserunners but not missing a lot of bats. He moved up to Bradenton in mid-July and again had a good ERA, but he allowed more walks and hits than in low A and struck out slightly fewer. He was a mild flyball pitcher.
Baker spent the entire season at Bradenton, which shows the Pirates weren’t satisfied with his development. His college teammate, Phil Irwin, was drafted by the Pirates much later in the same draft and was promoted to Altoona at mid-season. Baker again had a solid ERA, but his WHIP increased while his walk and K numbers stayed about the same. The ERA was misleading, though, as 31% of the runs against Baker were unearned. He did improve steadily throughout the season. His ERA and opponents’ average in April and May were 3.99 and .319, respectively. The rest of the year, those numbers were 2.73 and .216. His best month by far was August, when he posted a 1.96 ERA while walking nine and fanning 32 in 36.2 IP.
Baker opened the season in the Altoona rotation and struggled, mainly due to very poor control. In late May the team moved him to the bullpen and he pitched much better in relief until a rough August, when he posted a 7.36 ERA in eight relief outings. He also made a few spot starts in June and July. As a starter, Baker walked more than he struck out, 38 to 36 in 62 IP. As a reliever he walked 19 and fanned 41 in 43.2 IP. He had trouble with right-handed hitters, walking them at about twice the rate at which he walked left-handed hitters.
Baker returned to Altoona and opened the season in the bullpen. He took another step backward, getting off to a horrific start that included an ERA of 12.23 in April and May. By contrast, his post-All-Star ERA of 4.28, which included seven starts, was outstanding. Control problems again were the issue in the first half, as he walked 30 in 32 innings before the All Star Game. Afterward, he walked only 15 in 48.1 IP, but he still got hit hard, allowing a .304 opponents’ average. On the year, he was roughly as ineffective against LH batters as RH batters. The one positive out of his season was that his K rate improved significantly.
Baker hasn’t come close to matching the progress made by Mississippi teammate Phil Irwin. Even when he was getting good results in class A, his K rate wasn’t good. He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft again but wasn’t added to the 40-man roster or selected. The Pirates may try him again at Altoona in 2014, but he wasn’t on any roster at the start of the season.
|2014: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $176,000
MiLB Debut: 2009
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2015
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: 2012
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 10, 2009: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round, 145th overall pick; signed on July 28.|