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Jun 06, 2013 - Jun 08, 2013     
TBD - ,
Dylan Baker
RHP 6-3 215   R/R

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60
40
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1B
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(5/3/12): The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Baker has blown up so fast this spring that he easily qualifies as the best rags-to-riches story in this baseball draft—or almost any baseball draft. An unheralded pitcher from Alaska, Baker began the 2012 season as the No. 4 starter in the rotation at the College of Western Nevada, but has been so impressive and so dominating every time out that he has vaulted up draft boards to a point where he is now the No. 1-ranked prospect in this year’s junior college class. He also ranks No. 40 overall, and conceivably could edge his way into the back end of the first round if he performs in tournament competition anything like he has during the regular season. As Western Nevada prepared to play its final series of the Scenic West Conference regular-season schedule against Salt Lake Community College with first place in the league at stake between the two teams, Baker is 11-0, 0.76 in 13 starts with 32 walks and 93 strikeouts in 59 innings. When he previously hooked up this spring on March 31 against Salt Lake, the nation’s No. 8-ranked team, he may have pitched his best game of the season with a 1-0, one-hit shutout. Most of Baker’s early-season outings were abbreviated starts as CWN run-ruled many of its non-conference opponents, but he got consistently better every time out and was thoroughly dominant in an 11-0, five-inning win over Eastern Utah in early March. He allowed two hits, walked none and struck out eight, and it was that outing that tipped off scouts that Baker may be something special for this year’s draft. D.J. Whittemore, who has gone 294-119 in six-plus years as head coach at Western Nevada, confirmed as much when he said it was the single-best, most-dominating performance he had ever seen by a junior-college pitcher. Baker’s fastball topped out at 96 mph that day, and he complemented it with two dominant breaking balls—an 86-mph slider with explosive lateral movement and a hard, downer curve at 83. Unlike in a couple of previous outings, when he struggled to throw strikes consistently, Baker had precise command of all three pitches throughout. His fastball has since peaked at 97 mph and has command has become increasingly refined with every outing. The improvement that Baker has shown in his brief time at Western Nevada has been dramatic as he enrolled at the school last fall with an above-average breaking ball and some tilt to his delivery, but with a fastball that ranged only from 87 to 90 mph. By adding 15-20 pounds to his frame by working hard in the weight room and dedicating himself to his craft, Baker was in the best shape of his life to start the 2012 season. His side work with Wildcats pitching coach Jeremy Beard that was aimed at streamlining his mechanics was also pivotal in his dramatic turnaround as he added 6-8 mph to his fastball and more power to his breaking stuff. By mid-season, he was showcasing scouts three dominant pitches. In addition to his vastly superior stuff, Baker generates excellent deception on his pitches as he hides the ball well, making it difficult to pick up as it gets on hitters so quickly. If anything that he needs to continue to work on, it’s the refinement of his command and the development of a changeup. Baker was a virtual unknown coming out of Juneau-Douglas High in Juneau, Alaska, despite leading his school to state titles as both a sophomore and senior. He went 6-1, 1.97 overall and threw a complete-game win in the championship game in 2010, but was generally better known for his hitting exploits at the time. Following his senior year in 2010, Baker spent the summer playing for the Seattle-based En Fuego, an elite-level travel team. His performance for that club led to his signing on with nearby Tacoma Community College, where he worked primarily as a No. 3 starter as a freshman and went an unspectacular 3-3, 3.47. He enjoyed modest success, walking too many batters but averaging a strikeout per inning while limiting hitters to a sub-.200 average. Looking for an opportunity to prove himself as a sophomore against superior competition, Baker had his high-school coach explore a few options and it was determined that Western Nevada would be a good fit. Baker then contacted Whittemore last August and subsequently elected to transfer, even though he knew by that late date there were no remaining scholarships available at Western Nevada. While he is paying his own way through school this year, Baker’s gamble should pay off handsomely in June when he could land in the first round of the draft and be rewarded with a million-dollar signing bonus.