A litany of waiver claims were executed around Major League Baseball today as many of the players who were DFA’d in advance of last week’s 40 man roster protection deadline are finding themselves with new employers for 2018. One of those players is former Indian farmhand Dylan Baker, who wound up getting plucked up by our own Milwaukee Brewers:
The #Brewers have claimed RHP Dylan Baker off waivers from Cleveland. With his addition, the 40-man roster is at capacity.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 27, 2017
Baker, who will turn 26 next April, began his career as a 5th-round draft pick back in 2012 after inking with Cleveland for a $200K signing bonus. Baker’s career to this point has been significantly limited by some serious injuries. In 2014 he suffered a fractured leg that cost him over half of the season. In 2015, he managed all of 5.0 innings before succumbing to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and later a few follow-up procedures that cost him all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Baker managed to return to the mound in 2017, but made only 17 appearances and tossed 16.2 innings between rookie ball and AA. He did compile a nifty 2.70 ERA and 16:1 K/BB ratio in that limited sample, though.
When considering what he’s shown when he’s been able to get on the mound, it becomes easier to see why the Brewers were willing to take a chance on Baker. In his 241.2 minor league innings the right-hander owns a 3.58 ERA along with a 213:98 K/BB ratio. Known for lighting up the radar gun, here’s a snippet from Skyler Kanfer’s scouting report for Baseball Prospectus back in May:
He started off Nido, a legitimate prospect that has struck out in only 11.4 percent of his plate appearances last year, with fastballs at 95 and 98 miles per hour. Yet, those two pitches paled in comparison to the ridiculous 88-mph slider he threw to Nido on the third pitch. It appeared to be heading towards the strike zone, but had tremendous late break, ending up a foot outside the plate and below the zone. The movement and velocity on the pitch make it a plus or even plus-plus pitch that has the makings of an excellent secondary weapon.
Sadly, since he was so dominant and only needed 11 pitches to mow through the heart of the Binghamton lineup, Baker only threw a slider that one time in the inning. He threw nine fastballs, none of which registered under 95 mph, with life, including a 99-mph heater...He threw a single changeup in the inning, which came outside the zone and clocked in at 87 mph. If Baker remains healthy, he has more than enough talent to be a legitimate late-inning, major-league reliever.
Baker’s plus fastball/slider combination along with his command/injury questions do portend to an ultimate future in relief, but he does have previous experience as a starter. He worked almost exclusively out of the rotation prior to returning from his elbow injury and threw 143.2 innings in Class-A ball in 2013. He’s also previously received praise for his changeup, which Baseball America described as a pitch that “made strides...and could eventually give him a third quality offering” when they rated Dylan as Cleveland’s #24 prospect after the 2015 season. At 6’2” and 205 pounds, Baker possesses the “prototypical starter’s build” that is considered desirable when evaluating young arms, but couples it with a delivery that has been described as “high-effort.”
Baker does have a minor league option remaining, so the franchise can afford to be patient with him if the choose to build his innings back up in 2018. They are a bit lacking for advanced starting pitching depth, after all. Or, they can keep Baker on the fast-track as a bullpen arm and he could become a viable option at some point later on in the summer, similar to the path that Taylor Williams followed this past season and that Adrian Houser appears poised to take next year. That is, of course, providing that Baker can remain in good health.
Baker’s addition fills Milwaukee’s 40 man roster for the time being. As we’ve seen in the past, however, it may not be safe to assume that Baker’s stay on the 40 man will be a long one. David Stearns has grown fond of playing waiver wire roulette during his previous offseasons at the helm for the Milwaukee Nine, and if another promising player becomes available later on in the offseason he could attempt to sneak Baker through waivers at that time. Milwaukee has one of the lower waiver wire priorities based on their 86-win campaign last season, which may indicate that there’s not much league-wide interest in gambling on Baker’s continued recovery.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference