As the Arizona Fall League (AFL) heads into its final week of regular season games, one Philadelphia Phillies prospect is scorching in the desert.
Playing for the 12-10 Scottsdale Scorpions, alongside eight other Phillies prospects, right-handed reliever Andrew Baker is making a name for himself out of the bullpen. On a team full of prospects and minor leaguers from the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels, Baker has stood out from the crowd.
The Phillies 11th-round pick from the 2021 draft has had an impressive stretch in the AFL, culminating with a spot in Saturday's top performers, as decided by the staff at MLB.com. Baker came in to pitch the sixth inning in the Scorpion's seven-inning 4-2 loss on Saturday afternoon. He needed just 13 pitches (nine strikes) to strike out the side in order against the 14-9 first-place Surprise Saguaros.
Now through six appearances, Baker has a non-existent 0.00 ERA, a minuscule 0.83 WHIP and a .053 batting average against, illustrating just how dominant he has been in what is typically a hitter-friendly environment. The 23-year-old is 1-for-1 in save opportunities and has two holds while recording 10 strikeouts (15.00 K/9) and giving up only one hit in his six innings.
Baker's only struggle has been giving up too many walks
The lone blemish on his AFL stat line is the four walks he has surrendered. Four walks in six innings doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's a bit of a red flag, considering Baker's propensity for issuing free passes. Logging strikeouts has never been an issue for the youngster; too many walks, on the other hand, has been a problem.
This season with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, Baker threw 41 innings and struck out 64 batters for a 14.05 K/9. He struggled with control, however, issuing 48 free passes for a 10.54 BB/9 and finished the year with an 8.12 ERA.
Walks have been a concern in the past for Baker, even before this season. He got his BB/9 down to 4.80 last year, but his previous stops in college, the Cape Cod League and Single-A in 2021 were all marked by high walk rates.
His BB/9 of 6.00 in the AFL comes in a small sample size, but it's still slightly improved from his regular season rate. If he can find his command in 2024, the righty should be able to maximize his strikeout potential. The Phillies sure hope he can.