Prospect Profile: Casey Baker

Casey Baker is nothing if not a gamer. Originally drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round in '99. He was released by the Yanks, released by the Indians in '02, he made two stops in the independent league and then caught on with the Padres in 2003. He can capably play second, short, third and all three outfield positions and now, as a utility specialist, all Baker needs to move up is a little more production with the bat.

Vital Statistics:

Name Casey Baker
Position Outfield
Age 24
Height 5'9"
Weight 160
Bats Both
Throws Right
'04 Club Lo-A Fort Wayne Wizards/Hi-A Lake Elsinore Storm

Batting and Power:  In almost 900 minor league at bats, Baker has all of five home runs, but that isn't what troubles the Padres.  He remains anxious at the plate and has a tendency to chase balls out of the strike zone, but with his speed he should be working more at plate coverage and pitch recognition.  There were signs that he was beginning to turn things around in '04.  He posted the highest batting average of his career at Lake Elsinore (.283) but still had an almost 4 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.  

'04 Clubs Avg. HR RBI At Bats SB/CS K/BB
Lo-A Fort Wayne Wizards (Midwest League) .248 0 9 117 1/4 29/5
Hi-A Lake Elsinore Storm (California League) .283 3 36 297 15/8 54/16

Baserunning and Speed:  Baker isn't necessarily a blazer, but he's got more than enough speed to play center, where he spends the majority of him time.  2004 saw a career high in stolen bases for him, but he was far from a sure bet, getting 15 steals in 23 chances.

Defense:  Baker's most attractive tool is his wide variety of tools.  He'll win no Gold Gloves on the left side of the infield, but he knocks balls down and has enough arm to make big league plays.  Of the infield spots he's seen the most time, and been the most effective, at second base where he has impressed scouts turning the double play.  In the outfield he's got a just slightly below average arm in right field, but plenty for center and left and more than enough speed to handle all three.  If he can hit just a little he could become a 'super sub' and move up the organization in that role.

ETA:  Baker's posted only one truly productive season with the bat, and will probably start '05 back at Lake Elsinore while the Padres try to evaluate whether '04 was a sign of things to come, or a fluke.  At 24 (he'll be 25 in August) he'll have to take a huge step forward this year if he wants to continue rising.

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