Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #12: First Baseman Luken Baker
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft
QUICK WRITE UP (WRITTEN PRIOR TO HIS SEASON STARTING)
Luken Baker is a monster of a human being and everything about him reminds me of Evan Gattis. When I watch Gattis, he doesn't necessarily have the home run swing that you are taught. Instead, his swing is somewhat level and he basically muscles everything over the fence.
Baker is reportedly a terrible defensive first baseman, but I've watch José Martínez play first base for the Cardinals all season and I'm convinced that Baker couldn't be any worse.
More than likely, he's a prototypical DH, but you don't make those kind of concessions about a player's future until you absolutely have to. The TCU standout is a dedicated baseball player, so I have no doubt that he'll max out his defensive capabilities.
The issue with Baker, and why he isn't on the Dirty 35, is that he's been plagued by injuries. Now, nearly all of these injuries have been the fluke-type. He was sidelined until earlier this week following surgery on a fractured left fibula after sliding into second. The prior season, he missed 47 games following an unorthodox collision at first base. Baker was once a two way player for TCU, but his pitching career was cut short because of an arm injury.
Injury concerns aside, Baker is a high-power prospect at first base. With just a few additional games underneath his belt he would have had his own spot carved out in the Dirty 35. The good news is that Baker's season is officially fired up and he's three games into his GCL season.
Well, Baker has been as advertised and well worth a second round pick, so far. His bat is lively and powerful and he's done very well at Peoria during an aggressive promotion. It's been great to see this young man rebound so well from injury and play nearly every day.
Reports on his defense remain concerning, but not overly-concerning. His ceiling appears to be average in the field, but that'll play because of how solid his bat is. Baker has also become a leader in that club house and he has also developed a great relationship with his teammate and monster prospect Nolan Gorman, as our very own Tara Wellman shared via Twitter.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
He's a giant. No. For real. This monster has giant's blood in him and I'm sure of it.
Like I was saying, he's something like 6;4" and 260 pounds, but he looks more like 10'9 and 600 pounds when you see him on the diamond.
Even with that big frame, he's surprisingly athletic. He won't wow anyone with his wheels, and I wouldn't want to see him race through a bunch of tires, but he's quick enough.
He doesn't wear batting gloves because he's a MAN.
POWER. Baker possesses real, in-game power. His swing isn't the prototypical power producer, but his raw strength and sheer force make him a true power-hitter.
When he hits baseball he really unloads on them.
All indications are that Baker is a spirited athlete.
All indications are that Baker is a mentor for younger player.
All indications are that Baker is a leader in the clubhouse. I know that his former TCU coaches and teammates absolutely adore him
I believe that Baker has a good enough eye to keep his walk rate above 8%. That'll do, as well
Baker is doing very well at a full season level in spite of playing very little in college over the last two years.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
There is a history of injuries in his past. Nearly all of the injuries have been fluky and caused because of hustle, but they're there so let's talk about it.
He's going to strike out his fair share. Baker straight HACKS at the ball. He's big, too, and that makes it easy for the swing-and-miss game to grow as he comes face to face with more skilled pitchers.
He isn't a good first baseman. He will hopefully get better with time but there is no guarantee. Most see him as a DH moving forward. I'll give a 21-year-old that has missed plenty of important development time the benefit of the doubt for now.
He has kind of a level swing. He's rarely off-balance even when the swing get's a little long. I know: your little league coach always told you that a level swing was a good thing. Well, your little league coach is and was wrong. And if you think I'm wrong go and look at the swings of any of the MLB Hall of Famers that you can find video on. You'll notice at least a bit of a "launch angle." Embrace it. It makes a lot of sense, really.
As always, I hate the comparison game. But this giant of a man is as close, physically and talent-wise, to Evan Gattis as any baseball player alive. That'd be a helluva ultimate-ceiling with a 5% chance of getting there, but I'll take it!
Thanks to Fangraphs for the Stats!
Thanks For Reading!!