Juneau’s Dylan Baker has racked up a ton of triumphs on the baseball field. Junior college regional pitcher of the year. Sixth-highest MLB draft pick from Alaska. Nine-year pro career.
Now you can add another: Double-A call up at age 29.
Baker’s promotion came courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds, who recently signed the rocket right-hander to a minor league deal and shipped him off to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Double-A South division.
The 29-year-old was called up from the American Association of Professional Baseball, an independent league. He had been with the Kansas City Monarchs.
“I knew I was always good enough to get back to affiliated ball,” Baker said, “but my biggest thing was just stay healthy. If I do that, I’m giving myself the best chance for teams to watch me.”
It’s rare for a player at his age, from an independent league, to get signed by a major league organization, so this was definitely one of the most rewarding results in his nine-year pro career.
“I actually got a call from my agent and I was just thinking to myself, ‘He’s calling to check in and probably see how my outing went the night before,’” said Baker. “I wasn’t wrong but he also asked how does being a Cincinnati Red sound. I said a few words that I won’t mention but I was incredibly happy.”
He last played for a MLB affiliate in 2018 when he pitched for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He also pitched for the Double-A Tulsa RubberDucks of the Cleveland organization in 2017.
Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, is one of just 12 Alaskans to reach the Double-A level.
He got back there by pitching lights out in the American Association. In four games with the Monarchs, he posted a 2-0 record and 2.57 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings.
“I knew I was pitching pretty well this year and giving myself a chance to get picked up by a team but also knew I can’t think about that every day.”
This was Baker’s third season in the American Association, a respected independent league that gained some traction after MLB restructured its minor league system and eliminated many teams.
The league is packed with former draft picks and elite players like Baker, a fifth-round MLB draft pick by Cleveland in 2012 as a 20-year-old out of Western Nevada College.
In his final college season, Baker went 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. He held opponents to a .155 batting average and was named NJCAA Region 18 Pitcher of the Year.
As a pro player, he has been affiliated with MLB clubs Cleveland, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and now Cincinnati.
Baker ranks No. 3 all-time among Alaskans in the minor leagues with 420 innings and No. 6 with 345 strikeouts. His 25 starts and 117 strikeouts in 2013 are the second most in a single season among Alaskans. His eight saves in 2018 rank third.
“Age definitely hasn’t slowed me down but I have realized I have to take better care of myself and put myself in the best situation possible,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time so it’s going to be a good and fun year.”
Baker is the prototypical power pitcher – hard fastball, hard slider. His fastball is clocked at 95-98 mph and his slider comes in in the 86-89 range. He also throws a split-finger fastball as an offspeed pitch.
“I would say my stuff is pretty similar to what it has always been,” he said. “My mechanics have changed some but my velo and all that is there. Really excited to get going and get into a groove.”