32. Dylan Baker – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 04/06/1992 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 205 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Baker was selected by the Indians in the 5th round of the 2012 Draft out of Western Nevada Community College and signed for $235,600. His freshman season in 2011 he pitched for Tacoma Community College before transferring to Western Nevada for his sophomore season in 2012. While at Western Nevada he was named the Scenic West Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and helped Western Nevada advance to the Junior College World Series.
Stuff: Baker is a power pitcher who combines a very strong lower half and some very good arm strength to bring some big time velocity from the right side. When healthy, he features a plus-plus fastball that comfortably sits at 93-96 MPH and will occasionally flash 97-98 MPH, and has been recorded as high as 100 MPH when he was in college. The Indians feel that as gets healthy, adds a little more strength and makes a few tweaks to his mechanics that he will more consistently be able to reach his top end velocity readings and see an uptick of a MPH or two in his average velocity. His fastball shows some good late life through the zone and gets a good amount of swing and miss with it, although he only shows average command of it. He mixes in a solid average slurvy slider that has some good, late biting action to it, and has the potential to be a plus offering and legit Major League weapon for him because of the late movement through the zone and swing and miss he gets with it. He also shows a feel for a developing changeup that has a chance to be average, but it is still a work in progress and a pitch he only uses occasionally to give hitters a different look and to attack left-handed hitters.
Delivery & Intangibles: Baker has a big frame with a very thick lower half that helps create a lot of strength for him from the ground up and the endurance to log a lot of innings. He has a free and easy delivery that he is working to refine but does a good job of repeating and staying on line with it. He really does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground (1.53 career GO/AO) and limiting damage by keeping it in the ballpark (8 HR in 225.0 IP). He displays some strong mental toughness where the game doesn’t speed up on him in high leverage situations and he really does a nice job of keeping composed to work out of jams. He has developed a good routine and is always well prepared when he takes the mound, and just has a very good makeup with a strong work ethic and ability to make adjustments quickly.
Focus: Health has been an ongoing issue for Baker over the last three seasons as he has been limited to just 13 total appearances over that time because of a few serious injuries. In 2014 he fractured his right ankle in the second start of the season and missed three months and also had what was then considered minor right arm soreness during spring training in 2014 which delayed the start of his season by a week. That arm issue cropped up again in 2015 as after one start he was sidelined because of arm soreness and later underwent Tommy John surgery on May 20, 2015 which shut him down for the rest of the season. Last season, he had a few setbacks along the way in his recovery which prevented him from getting on the mound the entire year. The focus in the early part of the season will be getting him healthy and ready to compete in a live game setting again. Once he is able to settle in and prove he is healthy, the focus will then shift on continuing his development which has mostly been on hold the last three years because of all the injuries. He’s still a little raw and experienced with just 225.0 career innings as a professional and only one college season, so the Indians really need to hone in on the development of his command, stuff, pitch sequencing and overall feel for pitching in order to smooth out all of the rough edges he still has on the mound. There is no question that his durability is a huge question mark moving forward as he has to show he can stay healthy and handle the innings workload of a starter or the appearances workload of a reliever, so the Indians will likely monitor his workload this season in order to better ensure he stays healthy and can stay on the field so that he can make some strides in his development. The Indians also want him to continue to work to refine the command of his fastball, be more aggressive with it in the zone, and locate it more consistently to the bottom of the zone. They also would like to see his slider get a little tighter and the command of it improve.
Future: Baker has a ton of talent but his numerous injuries over the last three years have really limited his time on the mound. With only one appearance over the last two years and just 13 appearances over the last three years, his once promising future has started to fade. While the Indians haven’t completely given up on him as a starter, the reality is his path for now may have to be as a reliever in order to keep him healthy and accelerate his development – plus he just isn’t built up to handle more than 70-80 innings in a season anyway. His lack of a true third offering and his fastball command issues could also be covered up some by working out of the pen where he can let loose with his fastball and really dominate in short spurts – a role many scouts viewed him in going back to the draft. He just has the kind of arm and mentality that can really impact in the backend of a bullpen, but even so, his overall grade is weighed considerably because of the concerns with his durability. If he continues to struggle with injuries this season he could eventually find his way off the 40-man roster, though the Indians still have some time to be patient with him considering he has two option years remaining and his arm is too valuable to give up on for now. He should open the season at Double-A Akron, though could find himself in extended spring training to start the season in order to manage his innings on the front end before eventually being assigned to Akron or even High-A Lynchburg in May or June.
Ranking History: #28 (2016), #30 (2015), #15 (2014), #42 (2013)