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Mid-Season Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospect #20

Since this is the mid-season write-up, it's just a quick overview of the player. When we get to the preseason re ranking in the offseason, they'll be a lot more involved.

All stats are current as of 8/4/2019.

All write-ups were published during all-star week.

Prospect #20: 1B Luken Baker

Palm Beach Cardinals

Drafted 75th overall in the 2018 draft

Age 22

I feel for Luken Baker. I really do. He was really good at Peoria last year during an advanced assignment following the draft. He's then "rewarded" with a tough assignment to the Florida State League to start 2019. I'm joke around, but being assigned to Palm Beach, while a mental grind, isn't the prison that it used to be. With technology that allows for players and organizations to track success of players beyond the box score, and countless instructors stationed out of Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter is a different world than it used to be.

Still, I hate the league.

But I give Baker credit; he didn't let it break him early in the season. I like to break Baker's offensive statistics down into three brackets. Those brackets are actually months, and you can actually use his stats to illustrate what he was doing in each month.

First came April, as April comes first on the calendar, duh. During April, Baker wasn't hitting for power, but he was displaying an advanced approach that allowed him to get on base plenty. Over 94 April plate appearances, Baker slashed 253/417/360, but with only five doubles and one home run to show for it. His K% was over 23%, but his BB% was an incredible 20%+. Baker understood that he was in the Pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and he was adjusting his approach accordingly.

Then came May. During May, Baker became aggressive. No longer was he taking walks. In 99 plate appearances during the month, Baker only waked THREE times. When you listened to the Palm Beach games on the radio, the broadcasters would often talk about how Baker seemed to be swinging for the fences. While this approach increased his monthly home run total to three during the month of May, it did nothing for any of his other stats. His BB% obviously cratered, but his K% stayed the same. He went from hunting for his pitch, to trying to hit what was fed to him.

Then, since June 1st, it's been a balancing act for Baker. I've been told that there are a lot of hesitant swings out of him lately. His power and slug is basically nonexistent, posting a .255 slugging percentage over 108 plate appearances since June 1st. He's more selective than he was in May at least, and he's posted a BB% of 12% over that time. He's done this while striking out less, as well, to the tune of 18.5% of the time.

In the gif below, you'll notice why I like Baker's swing. There's a lot of balance in his swing for a big man. One thing that we have talked about a bunch with Baker, is that he doesn't have a prototypical home run swing. It's designed more for contact, and is flatter than your average power swing. Instead, Baker's power is supplied from his big-body and his raw strength. LOTTA leverage in this swing:

Moving on to our next point: Since the beginning of May, Baker's wRC+ has been 84, meaning it's been 16% worse than league average for the Florida State League. However, his season wRC+ is 99, meaning that he's still been league average on the season. That's how shitty the Florida State League can be on a hitter. Baker has been borderline terrible, and he's been basically league average. THAT LEAGUE IS A GRIND, and Baker is all the better for working through it.

This is the part where I tell you that Baker is a bad fielder at first. The gif above is a great play by his standards. It's a good play by average standards. I've been told that he's better now than he was at the beginning of the season, but he's a bad fielder right now. SO, there's that.

I'm anxious to see what the rest of the season has in store for the big-bodied Baker. He is clearly doing some adjusting and course correcting, and a strong finish to the 2019 season will easily propel him back into the top 10 in the organization. Truth be told, the large drop on the list really wasn't fair of me. But I made a choice that the three big-upside teenagers deserved a little extra credit and attention. Let's talk later, when Baker is in the Texas League.

Thanks to Fangraph for the stats!

Thanks For Reading!!


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