With their final pick of the first day of the draft, the Cardinals went back to the college ranks and selected Luken Baker out of Texas Christian University. I’m sure Matt Carpenter will be thrilled to have another Horned Frog to potentially hang out with.
I profiled Baker in February; the biggest change in my opinion of him from then to now is that he missed substantial time again this spring due to injury, which is unfortunately becoming a bit of a trend for Baker.
This was the compensation pick for the Cards losing Lance Lynn; apparently they decided that they needed to literally replace Lance Lynn with a player who could fit into his old uniform, because Baker is a big sumbitch, as the saying goes.
The Good: Power, power, and more power. Baker has huge raw power, some of the best in the draft this year, and he can drive the ball out to all fields without having to cheat to hit good velocity. He’s also an extremely patient hitter, and looked like he was making strides this spring in cutting down on his strikeout rate as well. In 140 plate appearances this spring, Baker walked 24 times, struck out just eighteen times, and hit nine home runs. He was basically doing his best Will Craig draft year impersonation.
The Bad: See that number 140? There are more plate appearances than that in a college season. There are also more than the 207 Baker took in 2017. Injuries have shortened his past two seasons, and that has to be a concern, when a 21 year old can’t stay on the field.
Baker is very limited beyond what he does with his bat. He’s not much of a runner (maybe an understatement), is limited to first base defensively, and the body is a concern. He does have a very strong throwing arm, having pitched in the mid-90s in high school, but he’s not going to add value defensively pretty much at all.
My verdict: I don’t love this pick, certainly not to the extent I did the first two selections the Cards made tonight. If it were my money, I would have gone with more of an athlete, or taken a shot on another high-upside underappreciated arm, or something. Hell, if you wanted a big power hitting first base type I would have honestly preferred Bren Spillane, probably, though I admit Baker has better contact skills than the Illinois slugger.
Then again, as much as I’m lukewarm (Lukenwarm?), on this pick, the Astros took Seth Beer at the end of the first round. The Cardinals got a guy with a pretty similar offensive profile from another powerhouse school forty picks later, so maybe there’s a reason to feel good about the selection. It just wouldn’t have been my call, if I’m being honest.
via Scout Trio: