Not a Rookie: Scott Baker
Scott Baker was a successful three-year starting pitcher at Oklahoma State, earning himself a spot in the second round of the 2003 draft. He signed quickly after being drafted and pitched well for Quad Cities in the Midwest League, going 3-1, 2.49 in 11 starts with a sharp 47/8 K/BB ratio. I gave him a Grade B in the 2004 book, based on his early pro performance as well as the good impression he made on me when I saw him pitch in college.
Baker began 2004 with Fort Myers in the Florida State League, going 4-2, 2.40 with a 37/6 K/BB in 45 innings. Promoted to Double-A New Britain, he continued pitching well with a 2.43 ERA in 10 starts and a 72/13 K/BB in 70 innings. He finished the year with a 4.97 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Rochester, with a 36/15 K/BB in 54 innings, needing to make some adjustments at the higher level. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2005 book, projecting him as a strike-throwing inning-eating starter in the majors, a solid number three guy.
The Twins began Baker in Triple-A in '05 and he made the proper adjustments, going 5-8 but with a 3.01 ERA and a 107/26 K/BB in 134 innings. He went into the Minnesota rotation down the stretch and performed well, with a 3.35 ERA in 54 innings, losing his rookie eligiblity.
Baker struggle with the Twins in 2006, with an ugly 6.37 ERA in 83 innings, giving up an incredible 114 hits. However his K/BB remained solid at 62/16. His biggest problem was a tendency to give up too many homers. He remained very effective in Triple-A, with a 2.67 ERA in 12 starts for Rochester.
In 2007 Baker put things back together in the majors going 9-9, 4.26 in 24 starts for the Twins, with a 102/29 K/BB in 144 innings. In his major league career he has a 17-20 record, a 4.71 ERA, and a 196/53 K/BB in 281 innings, giving up 324 hits.
I still like Baker. I like his strike-throwing ability, and he reminds me of former Twins like Brad Radke and Kevin Tapani in that regard. He was quite effective in the second half last year, with a 3.44 ERA after the All-Star Break. He's hittable and needs a good defense behind him, and for that reason I don't see him as a long-term ace-type unless his command improves from very good to outstanding. But, as I wrote back when he was in the minors, he should do good work as an inning-eater who throws strikes.
Interesting PECOTA comps include Brett Tomko, Chad Ogea, Doc Medich, David Bush, Joe Coleman, Rick Aguilera, Tom Poholsky, Jae Seo, Charles Hudson, Gaylord Perry, John Lackey, Danny Cox, Bobby Jones, and Doug Drabek, certainly a wide range of outcomes. Sim Scores show teamate Boof Bonser as the top comparable, with Geremi Gonzalez, David Nied (ouch), Paul Thormodsgard (duck Twins fans), Sid Hudson, and Jason Isringhausen all showing up on the list. I like the PECOTA list better.
Baker might get off to a slow start in 2008. He's got some nagging injuries going on and is still trying to get over a bout with the flu. I'm going to predict that he makes 29 starts with a 4.39 ERA and a 125/47 K/BB in 175 innings, 186 hits allowed. Then he has a terrific year in 2009, with an ERA of 3.30 or something, a superb K/BB ratio, and an All-Star appearance. Then he falls back to the pack in 2010 and has a Tapani-like career the rest of the way.