Friday, February 27, 2009

Spotlight's On: John Baker

*With the season now just over a month away, Jorge Says No! will profile one pivotal player from each team. To often, players get lost in the shuffle of the big names and bright lights, so we focus on some of the under the radar guys who need to step it up in 2009 for their team to succeed.*

For the better half of 2008, the Marlins struggled to find consistent production behind the plate. The combination of Matt Treanor, Mike Rabelo, Paul Hoover, and Paul Lo Duca simply did not get it done. No surprise there. But then in the second half of 2008, something amazing happened.

And his name was John Baker.

Baker, who was drafted by Billy Beane in the famous Moneyball draft, came out of nowhere to hit .299 for the Marlins in just 197 at bats. The unheralded Baker was an after thought in the Marlins organization and few believed that he would be anything more than a starter at AAA.

But during his brief tenure with the Marlins, Baker opened up lots of eyes. He proved to Marlins brass that he could get on base by compiling a robust .392 OBP and exhibited a strong ability to work the count. Despite the fact that Baker is a catcher, he should be the ideal #2 hitter for the Marlins this season because of his ability to take pitches and get on base. He could score lots of runs hitting in between Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez.

With that said, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered about Baker. Can he be this productive for an entire season? Can he hit left handed pitching (.213 in '08)? Can he handle a pitching staff? Can he hit for power consistently? If Baker does not prove his worth, then I would expect the Marlins to look in another direction for a catcher (cough...Ivan Rodriguez).

But for now, Marlins fans have got to feel pretty good about John Baker. At worst, Baker is a one hit wonder who had a couple of very good months on the big show. But the best case scenario is quite sweet for the cash strapped Marlins-a productive, cheap, semi young catcher who can hold down the fort for a few years, while becoming an integral part in what could be an awesome Marlins lineup. Given how difficult it is to find a young catcher these days, it would be a major coup for the Marlins if Baker turns out be something good.

The spotlight's on, John Baker.

What do you think, will Baker produce in 2009?

*Coming up on Monday, the Washington Nationals.*

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