Next up in our Top 30 prospect countdown, this year's 7th round pick, Abel Baker. Despite what the unceremonious divestment of Mike Napoli might suggest, the Angels seem to be going out of their way to stockpile slugging catchers in their farm system. After a nice debut in Orem, it is safe to say that Abel Baker has the potential to some day get a chance to be bring his big bat to Anaheim only to have to spend his entire existence proving to Scioscia that he can field the position. In other words, you've got company, Hank Conger!
Position: Catcher Level: Rookie (2011 7th round draft pick)
Bats: Left Throws: Right Height: 6'1" Weight: 195 lbs.
Age: 21 Born: October 26, 1990
2011 Season Stats: 157 AB, .306 AVG, .406 OBP, .471 SLG, 10 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 43 SO, 1 SB, 1 CS, .393 BABIP
Bat – B+. Decent hitter for average and has good pop for a catcher. Advanced approach.
Speed – C. It’s decent for a catcher, but it will never be a strong suit.
Arm – A. Baker has an absolute cannon, already looks like one of the best in the system.
Performance – B. Baker was one of the better hitters for Orem and a solid defensive catcher
Projection – An offensive minded everyday catcher.
Comp - Floor: Bobby Wilson. Ceiling: Ramon Hernandez.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date: 2015-2016
Season Summary: Baker was taken in the 7th round with the 225th overall pick in this year's draft out of Grayson County Community College, the same school that produced John Lackey, so try not to hold that against him. The book on Baker was that he was a catcher with a big power bat and a big arm behind the plate. Baker dominated during the JUCO season, hitting .359 with 7 homers and 14 doubles in 170 at-bats. He kept that right on going after he got drafted and made the jump to the Pioneer League.
Baker hit for average and drew plenty of walks in Orem and his power held up as well. With a .166 ISO, he wasn't exactly crushing the ball, but given the small sample size and the switch from aluminum bat to wood bat for Baker, it was more than sufficient.
If there is a concern for Baker after his rookie season it was his caught stealing rate. For a guy who supposedly has a cannon for an arm, he got run on a bit, allowing 54 of 72 base stealers beat him. That isn't a terrible percentage considering that so many pitchers at that level have a hard time controlling the running game, but it is low enough to be worth keeping an eye on. After all, this is a catcher in the Angel organization and if he can't defend the position, Scioscia won't let him have much of a future.
What to Expect in 2012: Given Baker's success at Orem, it seems pretty likely that the he'll get the promotion to Low-A ball with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Getting a full season out of Baker will definitely go a long way towards assessing what his real potential is. In particular, I would be curious to see how Abel's platoon splits turn out over the course of a full season. Baker is a left-handed batter, but he was a switch-hitter in high school before he finally scrapped it. Being a left-hand hitting catcher is actually a huge boost to his potential, but if it turns out that he can hold his own against southpaw pitchers, then that will be a huge bonus.
Expect to see even more power from Baker too. He only just turned 21 last month and has a frame that could add more muscle.
Not to hammer the point home too hard, but while his bat is what fans will watch, to the Angel organization, the year will be all about defense for Baker. Baker will have to prove that he has more to his defensive repertoire than a rocket arm. His pitch blocking, handling pitchers and framing will all be scrutinized. This is the team's first real chance to get their hands on Baker and work extensively with him to make the necessary adjustments. If he can make the necessary changes and please the great and mighty Sosh, his bat should carry him through the system pretty quickly.