St. Louis Cardinals: Keep An Eye on Corey Baker, a Rising Star

Feb 20, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Corey Littrell (75) poses during spring training media day at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Corey Littrell (75) poses during spring training media day at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals signed a prospect arm in 2011 who is showing up in a big way this spring and in the World Baseball Classic.

Corey Baker was drafted in the 49th round of the 2011 amateur draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He came to the Cardinals from the University of Pittsburgh. This 27-year-old right-handed pitcher stands 6’1″ and weighs 170 pounds. Having gone practically unnoticed until now, he is making a name for himself this spring.

Baker enters the 2017 spring training with a non-roster invitation– the first of his career. His career, thus far, has him climbing the ranks in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. But who is he and why should Cardinals Nation care?

Let’s take a look at his career. In 2011, in low-A ball, Baker appeared in fifty-three innings surrendering fifty-four hits, seventeen earned runs, one home run, seven walks, all while recording thirty-two strikeouts. He remained at this level in 2012 where he appeared in 51.2 innings surrendering forty-four hits, fourteen earned runs, zero home runs, nine walks, all while recording thirty-four strikeouts.

He promoted to A-ball, A-plus-ball, and AA in 2013. He appeared in 24.1, 32.1, and 19.2 innings respectively at each level. He surrendered twenty-one A-ball hits, thirty-two A-plus-ball hits, and twenty-four AA hits.

He was tagged for five earned runs in A-ball, fourteen earned runs in A-plus-ball, and fourteen earned runs in AA-ball. He struck out twenty-nine in A-ball, twenty-three in A-plus-ball, and seven in AA.

2014 saw Baker appear in A+ and AA for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. In these, he appeared in seventy-seven and fourteen innings respectively. He was marked for allowing sixty-one A+ hits and twenty AA hits, as well as twenty earned A+ runs and nine earned AA runs. His K-count in 2014 was fifty-seven in A+ and seven in AA.

This all lead to him appearing- rightly so- in AA exclusively in 2015. He appeared in ninety-seven innings in Springfield allowing eighty-eight hits, forty-two earned runs, six home runs, thirty-nine walks and recorded eighty-eight strikeouts. He earned a 1.309 WHIP in 2015 and ended the season with a 3.90 ERA.

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2016 was a split season between AA and AAA. Baker pitched in ninety-nine AA innings and thirty-one AAA innings. He earned a 4.91 AA ERA and an 8.71 AAA ERA. These aren’t great, right? These inflated numbers came from the amount of home runs and earned runs that he allowed in 2016: nineteen homers and fifty-four earned runs in AA; and seven homers and twenty-eight earned runs in AAA.

Now before you start judging Baker negatively, let’s jump ahead to this season. In this season, his first non-roster invitation to Spring Training, Baker has appeared in 2.2 innings surrendering two hits, no home runs, no earned runs, no walks, and recording one strikeout. This was before he left the St. Louis Cardinals spring training to join Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

I watched him pitch in the WBC and let me tell you just how impressed I was. Baker was shut-down. Granted, not all of the batters he faced were MLB-caliber players (many playing in the WBC are minor-league-equivalents) but he had stuff that shut them down. In 4.2 innings, Baker held his opposition scoreless allowing only three hits and fanning three others.

These numbers alone do not tell the real story though as his stuff had the batters confused and guessing in each at-bat. And the way he throws is almost effortless.

So what’s in store for Baker? I predict that he will start the 2017 campaign in Memphis. That said, should he continue the work he has displayed this spring and the work he has displayed in the WBC, his name will be one to watch in the way of trades or in the way of a September call-up.

Next: 2017 Season Predictions

I will be in attendance at many of the Memphis games and will report on what I see from the likes of Baker and others and will keep you informed. Thanks for reading and go Cardinals!