Padres Scouting Report: Brad Baker

Brad Baker had a slight setback in 2003, but it may have been the best thing to happen to the youngster. After struggling in Mobile where one scout labeled his fastball, "flat and guys were sitting on it," he was sent back down to Lake Elsinore and converted into a closer. Baker flourished in his new role and instantly was placed on the map as a serious candidate for future promotions.

"He initially got here and started a few games for us," Strom broadcaster Sean McCall said. "He came and joined us and Charlie Hough thought it was a good place for Baker to be in a closer's role. I was calling him Trevor during the year. He was a low-key guy who would just chuckle.

"He was a first round pick of the Red Sox who was traded in 02 and went to Mobile and going to different organizations to Double-A to Lake Elsinore – that is where baseball, that mental aspect where guys have to deal with it, doesn't necessarily go as we wish. So Brad Baker, being that high draft choice, being traded – sometimes how does that kid react and then the scenario at Double-A and guys look at it as a demotion instead of an opportunity, but he looked at it as an opportunity."

Brad Baker was acquired in a trade time with Boston as part of the Alan Embree deal in 2002. At 23, Baker seemed on the verge of becoming a bust after a rough first half in Mobile, but seemed to find his niche as a closer in Lake Elsinore.

In Mobile, Baker sported a 5.86 ERA and a ghastly walks + hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 1.70. When he was sent back down to Elsinore his WHIP went down to an incredible 1.00.

As one Padres scout said, "He embraced what the Padres asked of him and he was a stud closer."

Many wonder how he did it.

His fastball has lost some velocity in an effort to gain more control and now tops out in the 92 range while normally falling between 86-89. It is now hittable. What separates him from the pack is his above average changeup and ability to change speeds.

Amazingly, over the course of the season, between Mobile and Elsinore, Baker struck out an average of 11.5 batters per nine innings. That is Randy Johnson good. In 44.2 innings at Elsinore he averaged 13.5 batters per nine innings, or 1.5 per inning.

"He has an outstanding changeup," said the Padres scout. "At that level, very, very effective. He combines that with a low to mid 90's fastball."

"I always had a chuckle because guys knew what was coming, guys were looking changeup," McCall added. "He just became a source of reliability. I can call him Trevor in that regard.

"Trevor has seen Brad Baker throw his changeup and Trevor was a class act. And Baker could talk to him a little bit."

"His changeup is outstanding and he does have a good arm," the Padres scout added. "Remember, first round pick and Rusty Tucker is hurt. With Tucker going down, how does that thrust Baker into a bigger role?"

How indeed. Baker now will head back up to the place that has given him his most trouble, Double-A Mobile. He will head up there with a new attitude – a closer's mentality. If one gets away you simply let it go. With five minor league seasons under his belt, Baker will be forced to prove his worth this season. Former number one picks don't get many chances to prove they belong.

With his new role, Baker may have found his star again.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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