MadFriars.com and Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year Brad Baker took his game to a new level in 2004. A former first round prospect, Baker was consistent throughout the year and downright dominant most of the time.
Brad Baker went through his first 16 outings in Mobile without allowing a run, striking out the side on three separate occasions. In total, he sent the side packing without getting wood on the ball seven times over the course of the year.
He ended up with 30 saves for Mobile, a team record, a .157 ERA and limited opponents to a .179 batting average. If a runner happened to reach base, he limited hitters to a .117 average.
Baker combines a 92-93 mile per hour fastball with a devastating changeup similar to Trevor Hoffman. He also possesses a curveball which is still a work in progress. His change has been tabbed as the best in the system by the many scouts we polled.
What really put Baker on the map was his increased command. He walked 36 with Mobile in 2003 compared to his 24 in 2004 with more innings pitched this past season.
The only concern regarding Baker was his ability to pitch in multiple innings. In 55 games with Mobile, Baker pitched over an inning just three times and in two of those games he gave up runs. In eight appearances with Portland, Baker twice went more than an inning and gave up runs once. Over the course of 58 outings when he worked an inning or less, Baker gave up runs in seven games and twice those runs were unearned.
"He was a starter so we knew he could (pitch more than an inning) and sometimes you look at Gagne," Waller began. "Gagne is a one inning pitcher until they need more. When it is working you don't even flirt with it. Because he was steady Eddie all year – there were times when he came in the eighth inning in Double-A. R.D. Spiehs did an outstanding job of shutting down the eighth so it made it easier for us.
"We knew he was more than capable of going out and getting a two inning save, if necessary. He ended up changing roles later when Marty McLeary came back from the big leagues. He wasn't the closer anymore. So he came in as a middle guy. There are more times when you will need a middle guy."
His success continued at the Triple-A level, regardless of the role he was performing. His 0.93 ERA in eight appearances and .143 batting average allowed tell the story. With runners on base, Baker held his ground and limited hitters to a miniscule .063 average.
Baker will likely be tabbed for Portland again in 2005 but his numbers are so good that it will be hard for the Padres to ignore. Over the past three years, Baker has held the opposition to a .203 batting average.
"We used him a lot like Trevor Hoffman. He had a plus fastball at times. He doesn't locate it as well as Trevor does. We are hoping we can get him to that point. And we are also working on a curveball he can mix in so that gives him another option. So if one pitch isn't working he has an alternative."
Scary to think what might be if he can place the curveball wherever he wants it whenever he wants it like his change.