Phillies Prospect Andrew Baker Has an Electric Arsenal and a Better Backstory

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Andrew Baker has some of the best raw stuff in the Philadelphia Phillies system. He also has one of the best backstories. A 22-year-old right-hander with a high-octane heater and a breaking ball that’s arguably better, Baker converted from catcher to pitcher in junior college and initially hated it. Moreover, he’d once been scared to take the mound.

Baker — an 11th-round pick in 2021 who finished last year in Double-A — is currently in big-league camp with the Phillies. He discussed his atypical path to prospect prominence over the weekend.


David Laurila: You were a high school catcher and didn’t become a pitcher until college. Is that correct?

Andrew Baker: “Yes. I did the full switch at the beginning of my freshman year in 2019, so I’ve really only been pitching seriously for about four years.”

Laurila: Did you pitch when you were a kid?

Baker: “I did. I started pitching when I was eight or nine years old and quit after I was 11 due to a head injury. I took a line drive off the right side of the temple area. When it hit me, I just went black. Long story short, I had a major concussion and had to have surgery; it was a procedure to go in and stop bleeding. The surgery was simple, but at the same time, what head surgery is simple? After that, I just kind of put pitching down. At first, I was scared to get back out there, and then it was more so that I was a pretty good catcher.”

Laurila: Are there any lingering effects?

Baker: “The fear of pitching is gone — I’m past that point — but I still can’t hear out of my right ear. Other than that, nothing really.”

Laurila: You don’t ever get flashbacks on line drives back through the box?

Baker: “No. I had an instance last year in Double-A where a guy hit a really hard groundball back at me and I caught it. Somebody did ask me ‘Hey, that was probably the toughest one you’ve had; did it scare you at all?’ I was like, ‘Nah.’ That doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

Laurila: How long was it before you started playing again after the surgery?

Baker: “It was probably three or four months later.”

Laurila: That was at what position?

Baker: “Catcher.”

Laurila: You were returning from a serious concussion and playing a position where you can take foul-tips off the mask?

Baker: “I mean, it was 12-year-old ball. I was just wanting to get back out there to play. From there I caught all the way through high school.”

Laurila: No pitching appearances at all?

Baker: “When I got older, kind of 16-17, they kind of threw me out there a little bit just because I had a good arm. But it wasn’t anything serious.”

Laurila: Did you go to a large high school?

Baker: “No. I went to a small school in Alabama — a Christian school that my brother and sister went to — and I graduated with 33 people.”

Laurila: What was the transition from catcher to pitcher like?

Baker: “It was very hard. It was tough, and I hated it. My senior year of high school, I was doing a bunch of showcases. I wanted Chipola for junior college and signed up for their showcase, although not so much for the idea of getting a scholarship there, but more so that every smaller school there would look at me.

“I called my travel ball coach to see if we could get in some work — it was Tyler Courson, who is a big travel ball guy in Alabama — and he said he had a showcase that weekend. I asked if I could come in to do some catching work, and he said OK. I was 18 at this point. So, I went in and did catching stuff and he said, ‘Man, you’ve got a strong arm. Do you pitch anymore?’ I said, ‘Not since I was 11; maybe sometimes in school games, but nothing like serious.’ He was like, ‘Let’s go out there and see what you can do.’

“We threw this little bullpen and I had terrible mechanics, but after the second pitch he told the guys, ‘Go get a radar gun, go get a radar gun.’ Afterwards, he said to me, ‘You know you were sitting 90, right?’ I was like, ‘Great, but what’s that got to do with anything?’”

Laurila: What happened next?

Baker: “I went down to the showcase at Chipola, and on the form you had to put down a primary position and a secondary position. I put down catcher for my primary, and thought, ‘Shoot, if I throw 90, I should put pitcher down for my secondary.’ So I did the catching stuff at that camp, then went and threw the bullpen. I ended up hitting 92. A week later, I got an offer from Chipola.”

Laurila: And a year later you got drafted.

Baker: “Yes. I got taken in the 2019 draft by the Dodgers [in the 16th round]. I also got a scholarship to Auburn, and I turned [the Dodgers] down to go to Auburn. That was the year that COVID hit, so we played 16 games and then the rest got cancelled. Then they made the eligibility rules, so I transferred back to Chipola.”

Laurila: How hard were you throwing when the Phillies drafted you two years later, and how hard are you throwing now?

Baker: “I came in sitting anywhere from 95 to 97. Right now, at this moment, I’m 97 to 99. Last year during the season, I was anywhere from 99 to 102. The 102 was just once.”

Laurila: What is the movement profile on your fastball?

Baker: “I get a lot of ride. I couldn’t tell you how much, though. I don’t like to look at stuff like that all the time. I don’t really see a point in diving into it except in certain instances where we maybe need to tweak something.”

Laurila: I’ve read that while you throw hard, your best pitch is actually your breaking ball. Do you agree with that?

Baker: “I’ve heard people say that, but I think both of them are fine. I don’t feel that I have a ‘best’ pitch. I mean, it’s definitely an out-pitch for me, and it’s a pitch that I can use to get back in the count, but I think the fastball plays just as well as the slider.”

Laurila: It’s a slider, and not a curveball?

Baker: “I would say it’s a slider. It’s got a different movement profile than a slider — it kind of falls off — but it’s anywhere from 85 to 87, so I think it’s hard enough to be a slider. I’m also throwing a cutter now. That’s since last September.”

Laurila: What about your command?

Baker: “It’s definitely been a problem in the past. That’s been my running thing: Great stuff, but he’s got to get the command better. But in the past year, my command has made a huge jump from what it used to be. It’s continuing to get better.”

Laurila: Do you feel that you’ve made the transition from thrower to pitcher?

Baker: “Yes. I’m not where I want to be, by any means, but I’m definitely going out there with a sense that I know how to pitch now.”

Laurila: At the same time, I assume you would identify as a power pitcher?

Baker: “Yes. Absolutely.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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