Padres Scouting Report: Baker and Biernbaum

Sometimes two players seem to mirror each other in their development. It comes from playing together and when one gets into a funk, the other one follows shortly thereafter. Such was the case in Fort Wayne, a San Diego Padres affiliate. LJ Biernbaum and Steve Baker wore down as the 2003 season winded to an end. And according to a scout, that caused them to try too hard to make things happen and lose patience at the plate.

Both are 6-3, 200 pounds. One bats lefty and the other a righty, but their careers are being lumped together – and it is not refreshing.

"Steve Baker and LJ Biernbaum I would put in the same category," said the Padres scout. "I think they wore down a lot as the season went on. I am not sure if there command of the strike zone is as good as it could have been.

"There really is never a situation where a walk isn't a good thing. I think that was really difficult for both of those guys."

Steve Baker struck out 117 times as opposed to the 32 walks he drew in 127 games.

Biernbaum was better than his counterpart, walking 56 times in 124 games while striking out 91 times.

Yet Biernbaum managed to have an on base percentage of .319, while Baker's was a dismal .306.

"I think for both of those guys – actually I talked to LJ about this quite a bit and even with Baker about this a few times," Fort Wayne Wizards broadcaster Terry Byrom concurred. "I think as a young player you have in your mind that you have to do certain things, ‘Well I am the third place hitter so I have to do these things.' I would say, ‘Bonds is a fourth place hitter and he walks 150 times.' You can still do these things and I said, ‘If Barry Bonds can take a walk, you can too, right?'

"In Steve's case I think it just got to a point in the season where he worked really hard. I mean he would be out early. He would work really hard. He just never seemed to really get the strike zone plus we are playing teams 12-14 times and pretty decent scouting reports from all of those games and guys knew."

But is much more than that. Baker and Biernbaum, 23 and 24, respectively, did not put enough quality at bats together. Already old to be playing in the Midwest League, they were hampered by their inability to hit quality pitches.

"That is part of the adjustment and a reason I think pitching is ahead of hitting in our league. If the hitter didn't make an adjustment, they were in trouble. The pitchers, for the most part, are good enough to get a guy out.

More disconcerting is if they cannot hit the pitching in Low-A, what would happen if they faced the tougher pitching as they climbed the Minor League ladder.

Right now they have not shown enough to warrant such consideration.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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