Dylan Baker delivered goose eggs on Tuesday.
“I am doing great,” Baker said. “This is one level above where I was at last year.”
The 2010 JDHS graduate was masterful in his pitching debut for the Carolina Mudcats, the Advanced-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. He threw six perfect innings and retiring 18 consecutive batters before reaching his pitch count in a 7-0 win over the Frederick Keys, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
Baker, 22, fell behind only two batters. He struck out four and retired eight on ground balls. The Mudcats gave Baker a lead before he took the mound and scored in each of the final four innings.
“I was able to pound the strike zone, which made my off-speed stuff better,” Baker said. “Just throwing strikes, and they couldn’t really read me. I had some good hitters behind me.”
This was Baker’s first game for the Mudcats. Baker injured his ribs and lats during spring training (Feb. 25 - March 30), which delayed his callup to Carolina.
“I was supposed to start the season with them,” Baker said. “I had a little setback in spring training while pitching so they shut me down for a little bit. I was a little behind schedule in throwing so they kept me in Arizona a little longer.”
Baker was only supposed to throw five innings, but a low pitch count took him to the sixth. The team is preserving Baker’s arm, limiting him to 80 pitches, and he was relieved by Jacob Lee to start the seventh. Lee lost the perfect game to a leadoff triple but kept the shutout intact during a two-inning stint. Rob Nixon closed while allowing a hit and a walk in the ninth.
“I would rather come out than get an arm injury early in the season,” Baker said of his departure from the game. “I think it was the smart thing to do.”
Baker was up against the Orioles’ No. 16 prospect, Branden Kline (1-1). Kline gave up two runs on three hits over six innings with two walks and eight strikeouts. The Mudcats’ Erik Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with a triple, an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored, while Anthony Gallas plated two runs.
“This team is a little older and more experienced than my team last year,” Baker said. “We have a really good squad this year. A lot of us played together last year so we know each other pretty well. I feel better about how experienced we are.”
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker said he was pleased to have Baker on the roster.
“Dylan is a guy who has an extremely good arm,” Tucker. “He throws the ball really well and has nice secondary pitches. In the past he has been a guy who throws strikes. He wasn’t a really big strikeout guy earlier in the year last season, but he started to strike out a few more batters toward the end of the year. We look for him to continue that. He is an impressive young man.”
The Mudcats media team calls Baker a rags-to-riches player, as he was virtually unrecruited out of high school and fell under the radar.
“I think everybody pulls for guys that come out of obscure places sometimes and don’t have all the press or whatever behind them,” Tucker said. “More so than that you really pull for guys who work hard and go about their business in the right way and that is what Dylan does.”
Baker is on a five-day pitching rotation with the Mudcats.
“I throw every fifth day,” Baker said.
The first day after a start, Baker lifts weights and runs. He will play light catch from 152-200 feet, throwing for six to eight minutes. His second day involves bullpen work and long tossing. The third day is another workout session including catches from 200 feet and throwing a little harder — but not too much. The fourth day is an easy day, with throwing from about 90 feet for six minutes.
“Definitely we have a lot of down time,” Baker said. “It is nice. We throw a lot, a ton of innings during the season, so as much as we can get off it works out. We hang out, maybe go watch a movie or something.”
Baker lives in Knightdale, N.C., roughly 15 minutes east of Raleigh.
When not pitching in a game, Baker is required to chart and radar gun his teammates and opponents.
“We study opposing batters on the field,” Baker said. “If you are a starter you have to do the game chart, the gun and you see opposing players a lot when you are behind the plate.”
The Mudcats are in their third season of play in the Carolina League. The team plays 70 home games at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. (near Raleigh) among its 140-game schedule.
“This is definitely different than high school,” Baker said. “It is a great experience. I like it, it is fun.”
The Mudcats are in second place in the Carolina League Southern with a 3-2 record. The Salem Red Sox (BOS) are 5-0, Winston-Salem Dash (CWS) are 2-3 and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX) are 2-4. In the Carolina League Northern are Lynchburg Hillcats (ATL) 3-2, Frederick Keys (BAL) 2-3, Potomac Nationals (WSH) and Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC) 2-4.
Baker was named the Gatorade Alaska Baseball Player of the Year in his senior season at JDHS, joining Crimson Bears alumni Chad Bentz (1999), Joe Kohan (2008) and Zach Mixson (2005) as players receiving the honor.
Baker played two seasons of college baseball for Western Nevada College Wild Cats and was named a Junior College First Team All-American as a sophomore, posting a 13-0 record with a 1.91 ERA, striking out 126 batters in 84.2 innings. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB June draft. In 2012, he started eight games in the Arizona League, posting a 4.13 ERA with 24 IP, allowing 24 H, 19 R, 11 ER, 1 HR, 15 BB and 30 SO.
Last season, he played for the Lake County Captains, the Indians’ low-A team, posting a seven-win, six-loss season. His 3.63 ERA included 27 games (25 starts, one complete game). He ranked fourth in innings pitched with 143.2 and 117 strikeouts, while allowing 124 hits, 68 runs, 58 earned runs, 3 home runs and 62 walks. The Mudcats are a high-A team. Baker’s next logical progression would be AA or AAA, but players have been plucked from any division for the parent team.
Baker is the sixth Crimson Bears player to be drafted by the MLB: Bentz (Yankees) and Toby Steveland (Braves) in 1999; Joe Ayers (Brewers) and Kohan (Brewers) in 2003; and Kellen Moen (Royals) in 2011.
Baker, who usually spends October from January in Juneau visiting and working out at Pavitt’s Health & Fitness, was No. 20 on the list of the Cleveland Indians’ top prospects, but his performance on Tuesday is another step to advancing to his major league dream. Another scout has him at No. 16.
“This is awesome right now,” Baker said. “Obviously I would love to get up higher and make the big leagues, but right now this is more than I could ask for. It is definitely a dream.”
The Indians’ top 20 prospects are (name, position, team, league):
1 - Francisco Lindor (SS, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 2 - Trevor Bauer (RHP, Columbus Clippers, AAA), 3 - Clint Frazier (OF, AZL Indians, ROK), 4 - Dorssys Paulino (SS, Lake County Captains, A FULL), 5 - Tyler Naquin (OF, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 6 - Cody Anderson (RHP, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 7 - Ronny Rodriguez (SS, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 8 - Dace Kime (RHP, Lake County Captains, A FULL), 9 - Mitch Brown (RHP, Lake County Captains, A FULL), 10 - Luigi Rodriguez (OF, Carolina Mudcats, A ADV), 11 - Tony Wolters (C, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 12 - Jose Ramirez (2B, Columbus Clippers, AAA), 13 - LeVon Washington (OF, Carolina Mudcats, A ADV), 14 - Chen Lee (RHP, Columbus Clippers, AAA), 15 - Kyle Crockett (LHP, Akron RubberDucks, AA), 16 - D’vone McClure (OF, AZL Indians, ROK), 17 - Jesus Aguilar (1B, Columbus Clippers, AAA), 18 - Alex Monsalve (C, Carolina Mudcats, A ADV), 19 - Sean Brady (LHP, AZL Indians, ROK), 20 - Dylan Baker (RHP, Carolina Mudcats, A ADV).
According to Mudcats media, five 2013 Mudcats stars were among 19 players given extended non-roster invitations to the Indians Major League spring training camp. The five Mudcats were Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Joey Wendle, Tony Wolters and Jake Lowery.
Lindor, 20, was named the top prospect in the Indians’ Player Development System by Baseball America for the second consecutive year after a stellar 2013 campaign. The eighth overall selection in the 2011 draft, Lindor garnered Carolina League All-Star honors after hitting .306 (100-327) in 83 games with the Mudcats. He tallied 19 doubles, six triples, one home run and drove in 27 runs while scoring 51 times. The 5-11 switch hitter participated in his second XM future’s game and was promoted to Double-A Akron on July 16. His combined .303 batting average between Carolina and Akron was the best among Tribe farmhands.
Naquin, 22, is coming off a breakout year in his first full professional season. The Spring, Texas, native played 108 with the Mudcats, recording a .277 batting average nine home runs and 42 RBI. Forming a potent one-two punch with Lindor at the top of the order, Naquin scored 69 times and stole 14 bases en route to a CL midseason All-Star nod. Naquin was drafted by the Indians fifth overall in 2012 from Texas A&M University. He was promoted to Akron on August 14 where he played the final 18 games of the season. The outfielder also turned heads while playing 27 games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He hit .339 (39-115) with four doubles, a triple, one home run and notched 18 RBI for the Surprise Saguaros. His performance earned him an AFL MVP nomination and a spot on the AFL Top Prospects Team. Naquin enters the 2014 season ranked as the 4th best prospect in the Indians organization according to Baseball America, and was labeled the Indians Best Defensive Outfielder in the publication’s annual Best Tools survey.
Wendle, 23, was named the 2013 Lou Boudreau Award winner, symbolic of the top position player in the Indians Player Development system. The 5-11, left-handed hitting infielder spent all of last summer with the Mudcats where he hit .295 (122-413) with 32 doubles, 5 triples, 64 RBI and an .884 OPS. Originally drafted by the Indians in the 6th round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft, Wendle was selected to the Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team. He enters the 2014 campaign ranked as the 17th best prospect in the Indians’ PDS according to Baseball America. Wendle hit .311 (19-61) with 7 extra base hits, 12 RBI and an .863 OPS for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League after the season.
Wolters, 21, enters the season ranked as the 25th best prospect in the Indians organization according to Baseball America after transitioning from infielder to catcher in 2013. Wolters spent the first month of the season at extended spring training before spending the remainder of the campaign with the Mudcats. Originally a third round pick (87th overall) by the Indians in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Wolters threw out 28% of would-be base stealers, right in line with the Carolina League average of 30 percent.
Lowery, 23, was originally selected by the Indians in the 4th round (128th overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and split the 2013 campaign hitting a combined .264 (73-277) with 23 2B, 7HR & 33 RBI in 92 games between Carolina and Akron. The 6-0, 200 catcher retired 28.1% (27-96) of the runners attempting to steal off him, and recently completed an eight-game stint for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League (.240, 6-25, 5RBI).
Mudcats in Majors
According to the Carolina Mudcats website, the following Mudcats made the majors:
Abercrombie, Reggie - 2005; Andino, Robert - 2005; Aguila, Chris - 2003; Ambres, Chip - 2003, 2004; Alfonzo, Eliezer - 2004; Allen, Cody - 2012; Allensworth, Jermaine - 1994, 1995; Alonso, Yonder - 2009, 2010; Anderson, Jimmy - 1996, 1997; Arredondo, Jose - 2011; Arroyo, Bronson - 1998; Atkins, Garrett - 2002; Ausanio, Joseph - 1991; Aude, Richard - 1992, 1993; Badenhop, Burke - 2008; Bailey, Roger - 1999; Barmes, Clint - 2002; Bard, Josh - 2001; Barone, Daniel - 2006, 2007, 2008; Bautista, Denny - 2003; Bazardo, Yorman -2005; Beatty, Blaine - 1993, 1996, 1997; Beamon, Clifford - 1994; Beckett, Josh - 2003; Bentz, Chad - 2005; Benson, Kris - 1997; Berry, Quintin - 2011; Blank, Matt -2006; Boever, Joseph - 1996; Boxberger, Brad - 2010, 2011; Brock, Tarrik - 1999; Brown, Adrian - 1996, 1997; Brown, Emil - 1998; Brumfield, Jacob - 1995; Bullett, Scott - 1992; Cabrera, Miguel - 2003; Canale, George - 1995; Carpenter, Bubba - 2001; Carroll, Brett - 2007; Cecena, Jose - 1993; Chacon, Shawn - 2000; Chapman, Aroldis - 2011; Christiansen, Jason - 1993, 1994, 1997; Christman, Tim - 2000; Closser, JD - 2002; Coghlan, Chris - 2008; Cole, Victor - 1991, 1993; Collier, Lou - 1996; Costanzo, Mike - 2010,2011; Cook, Aaron - 2002; Cooke, Stephen - 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996; Corcoran, Tim -2008; Cousins, Scott - 2008; Cozart, Zack - 2009; Crawford, Carlos - 1997, 1998; Cummings, Midre - 1993; Davis, Brad - 2007, 2008; Davis, Kane - 1997, 1998; De Aza, Alejandro - 2006, 2007; Delgado, Jesus - 2007, 2008|; Del Rosario, Enerio - 2009; Dessens, Elmer - 1995, 1996; DiFelice, Mark - 2000, 2001; Dillon, Joe - 2004; Encarnacion, Angelo - 1994; Ericks, John - 1994; Fajardo, Hector - 1991; Fansler, Stanley - 1991, 1992; Figgins, Chone- 2001; Francisco, Juan - 2009; Frazier, Todd - 2009; Fredrickson, Scott - 1997; Freeman, Choo - 2002; Freeman, Justin - 2010, 2011; Fulchino, Jeff - 2004; Garcia, Freddy - 1997; Garcia, Harvey - 2007; Garcia, Jose - 2006; Gerut, Jody - 2000; Gil, Jerry - 2009, 2010; Gonzalez, Adrian - 2003; Gonzalez, Edgar - 2006; Gonzalez, Lariel - 1999; Gracesqui, Franklyn - 2003; Grandal, Yasmani - 2011; Gregorius, Didi - 2011; Hackman, Luther - 1999; Hamulack, Tim - 2011; Hancock, Leland - 1992, 1993; Harper, Brandon - 2003; Hawpe, Brad - 2002; Hayes, Brett - 2007, 2008; Heisey, Chris - 2009; Hermansen, Chad - 1997; Hermida, Jeremy - 2005; Hernandez, Alexander - 1998; Hill, Milton - 1995; Holliday, Matt - 2002; Holman, Shawn - 1996; Hope, John - 1993; Horst, Jeremy - 2009, 2010; House, Craig - 2000, 2003; Hudson, Luke - 2001; Huisman, Justin - 2002; Jacobs, Mike - 2007; Jennings, Jason - 2000, 2001; Johnson, Jason - 1997; Johnson, Josh - 2005; Johnson, Mark - 1992, 1993, 1994; Jorgensen, Ryan - 2003; Kendall, Jason - 1994, 1995; Kensing, Logan - 2005; Kiser, Garland - 1994; Konuszewski, Dennis - 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Lamb, David - 2001; Lawrence, Sean - 1995, 1996; Lee, David - 1999; Lehr, Justin - 2011; Leiper, David - 1993; Lewis, Fred - 2011; Lieber, Jonathan - 1993, 1994; Loaiza, Esteban - 1993, 1994; Lugo, Ruddy - 2004; Magrann, Thomas - 1991; Malave, Jose - 1999; Maloney, Matt - 2009; Martin, Al - 1997; Martinez, Carlos - 2005, 2007, 2008; Maybin, Cameron - 2008; McCurry, Jeffrey - 1993, 1994; McKeel, Walt - 2000, 2001; McLeary, Marty - 2003; Mesoraco, Devin - 2010; Messenger, Randy - 2003, 2004; Miceli, Daniel - 1993, 1996; Miller, Andrew -2008; Miller, Jai - 2007; Miller, Paul - 1991, 1993; Minor, Blas - 1991; Moraga, David - 2000; Morel, Ramon - 1995, 1996; Morris, Warren - 1998; Murphy, Bill - 2005; Neely, Jeffrey - 1991; Negron, Kristopher - 2009, 2010; Nolasco, Ricky - 2007; Nunez, Abraham - 1997; O’Connor, Brian - 1998; Olsen, Scott - 2005; Ondrusek, Logan - 2009; Ortiz, Javier - 1993; Osik, Keith - 1992, 1993; Osting, Jimmy - 2001; Parris, Steve - 1995, 1996; Partch, Curtis - 2009, 2010, 2011; Pena, Elvis - 1999, 2000; Pennyfeather, William - 1991, 1992; Peters, Christopher - 1995, 1996; Petersen, Bryan - 2008; Petrick, Ben - 1999; Phillips, Jason - 1997; Phillips, J.R. - 2001; Phipps, Denis - 2011; Phoenix, Steven - 1996; Piatt, Douglas - 1993; Pierre, Juan - 2000; Pisciotta, Mark - 1994, 1995; Polcovich, Kevin - 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997; Porzio, Mike - 2000; Ramirez, Roberto - 1994; Randall, Scott - 1999, 2001; Raynor, John - 2008; Reed, Eric - 2004, 2005; Resop, Chris - 2005; Reyes, Rene - 2002; Rincon, Ricardo - 1998; Robertson, Richard - 1992, 1999; Rodriguez, Henry - 2011; Rodriguez, Joe - 2005; Roesler, Michael - 1991; Roney, Matt - 2002; Ruebel, Matthew - 1994, 1995; Saipe, Mike - 2000; Sappelt, Dave - 2010; Sanchez, Anibal - 2006; Sanchez, Gaby - 2008; Sanford, Chance - 1995, 1996, 1997; Sears, Todd - 2000, 2005; Seddon, Chris - 2007; Shelton, Benjamin - 1991, 1992; Shouse, Brian - 1992, 1995; Sinkbeil, Brett - 2008; Slaught, Don - 1995; Small, Aaron - 2003; Smith, Jordan - 2009, 2010; Smith, Mark - 1997; Smith, Zane - 1993; Snare, Ryan - 2003; Sosa, Juan - 1999; Soto, Neftali - 2011; Stewart, Zach - 2009; Stoops, Jim - 2000; Strange, Doug - 1998; Suero, William - 1994; Tabaka, Jeff - 2000; Tankersley, Taylor - 2006; Taylor, Graham - 2008; Taylor, Scott - 1996; Terrero, Luis - 2010; Thompson, Daryl - 2010, 2011; Thompson, Mark - 2001; Tolar, Kevin - 1995, 1998; Toliver, Freddie - 1992, 1993; Tomlin, Randy - 1993; Tsamis, George - 1995; Tucker, Ryan - 2008; Tyler, Scott - 2006, 2007; Uribe, Juan - 2001; Valdez, Wilson - 2003; Van Slyke, Andy - 1993; Vance, Cory - 2002; Vanden Hurk, Rick -2007, 2008; Vargas, Jason - 2005; Villarreal, Pedro - 2011; Volstad, Chris - 2007, 2008; Wainhouse, David - 1996; Wagner, Paul - 1992, 1997; Wakefield, Tim - 1991, 1993; Walk, Robert - 1991; Wallace, Jeffrey - 1997; Watkins, Pat - 1999; Wehner, John - 1991; hite, Richard - 1992, 1993, 1996; Whitmore, Darrell - 1997; Wilkins, Marc - 1995, 1996, 1998; Willingham, Josh - 2003, 2004, 2006; Willis, Dontrelle - 2003; Wilson, Craig - 1998; Wilson, Gary - 1994, 1995, 1997; Wilson, Josh - 2003; Wood, Travis - 2009; Wood, Tim - 2008; Wolf, Ross - 2005, 2006, 2007; Womack, Anthony - 1993, 1995; Young, Jason - 2002; Young, Kevin - 1991; Zambrano, Eduardo - 1991; Zarate, Mauro - 2007.