Mobile BayBears Pitcher of the Year

<b>Pitcher of the Year for Mobile</b><br> It isn't really a question. His numbers in 2004 defied the odds of baseball physics. Perhaps it is fitting that he earned the award with his former team, the Boston Red Sox, winning the World Series. He is a San Diego Padre prospect now and he is Brad Baker.

Pitcher - Brad Baker – 6-foot-2, 180 lbs.
Born - November 6, 1980

2004 Season: Brad Baker had the best season of any Padres pitcher in the minor leagues this year. Baker, a former first round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox in 1999 that San Diego acquired in the Alan Embree trade, finally had the type of breakthrough season that has been expected of him, only as a relief pitcher, not a starter. At Mobile, Baker saved 30 games with 68 strikeouts to only 34 base on balls in 57 innings. Additionally, Baker went 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA. The most impressive statistic is that he struck out nearly a third of all batters that he faced (232 total batters, with 68 strike outs yet he only gave up two home runs).

The Padres decided to keep Baker at Mobile until the closer position opened up at Portland. Promoted late in the season to the Beavers, Brad had four saves in eight games, and again struck out nearly half of the batters he faced (38 batters faced, with 17 strikeouts).

Background: Brad Baker was first round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1999, fortieth overall. When he was first drafted, Brad threw in the mid-90's but just now has begun to regain his former velocity. After bouncing between Lake Elsinore and Mobile as a starter in 2002 and 2003, Baker was returned to Lake Elsinore to become a relief pitcher. Baker's biggest problem as a starter was that he was essentially a two pitch pitcher, fastball and a very good change-up. Converted to a relief pitcher at Lake Elsinore, Baker really shined posting a spectacular strike out to walk ratio of 69/14 in 44 innings.

"I think with the type of pitches I have (closing) better suits me," Baker said. "I am more fastball – changeup with the occasional curve. A lot of guys aren't like that. With two pitches, it puts me in a better situation facing the lineup once."

2005 Outlook: The past year and half have been great for Brad Baker. He has gone from being a failed high draft pick, to the Padres top minor league relief pitcher. However, there is some reason for caution despite the spectacular statistics. Baker is a pitcher whose best pitch is a changeup, which is very similar to two other former Padres relief phenols Jeremy Fikac and JJ Trujillo. Both Fikac and Trujillo enjoyed great success in the minor leagues using an arsenal of outstanding change ups and mediocre fastballs. Once they arrived at the major league level, they couldn't fool major league hitters with the same consistency and failed to live up to expectations.

The Padres have tried to take a different approach with Baker, as opposed to Fikac and Trujillo. The team is grooming him to be a closer, the only role that he has operated on at Lake Elsinore, Mobile and Portland. The team has also worked with him to continue to develop his fastball, and improve his curve, and not to rely so much on his curveball. Baker has much more talent than either Fikac or Trujillo, the question is does he have enough.

Baker should start the season as Portland closer, but if he continues to post the numbers that he has in the past year and half, we will see him in San Diego soon enough. If Brad's fastball continues to regain its former speed, and he develops a third pitch, he could be the real thing and a valuable addition to the bullpen.

Runner Up

Tim Stauffer, 6-foot-1, 214 lbs
Born - June 2, 1982

2004 Season: Tim Stauffer was the Padres number one selection in 2003, third overall. He blew threw three levels of the Padres system in 2004. Starting off at Lake Elsinore, Stauffer went 2-0 in six games with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings with a 1.78 ERA. The Padres, as is their new philosophy this year, challenged Stauffer after his early success at Lake Elsinore and promoted him to Mobile. In the Southern League, Stauffer went 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 8 games. His numbers at Mobile were equally as impressive as they were in Lake Elsinore, and Tim was only a few innings away from being the Southern League ERA champion.

The Padres had originally decided that Stauffer would finish the year with Mobile, but his success there forced the Friars to promote him to Portland. At Portland Stauffer continued to pitch well, going 6-3 with a 3.54 ERA in 14 starts. Again, he posted a good strikeout to base on balls ratio of 50/26.

Background: Drafted by the Padres in the first round of the 2003 draft out of the University of Richmond. He gained huge renown for his honesty by informing the Padres of a shoulder injury costing him at least a million dollars in a signing bonus. Stauffer sat out 2003, rehabbing the shoulder.

2005 Outlook: An outside chance to make the Padres as the fifth starter, but will more likely begin the season at Portland. Again, much depends on if the Padres are able to resign David Wells and how well their new acquisition in the Kansas City Royals, Darrell Mays performs. Stauffer is obviously a very good pitcher, but he is much more of finesse pitcher than someone who will overpower hitters with his fastball. According to scouts, Stauffer's best asset is that he has four pitchers that he can consistently throw for strikes anytime in the count.

Chances are we will probably see Stauffer, as Brad Baker, sometime in the middle of the 2005 season. Most observers project Stauffer to become a middle of the rotation starter, a very good pitcher without a dominating pitch.

MadFriars Top Stories