WNC’s Baker drafted in 5th round by Tribe
It was never a question of if Dylan Baker would be drafted on Tuesday, it was more of a question how high he would go.
Baker found out Tuesday when the Cleveland Indians drafted him in the fifth round of the amateur baseball draft, making him the highest-ever selection in the seven-year history of Western nevada College.
Western Nevada’s previous highest draft picks were two eighth-round selections – Logan Odom, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, was chosen by the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles with the 255th pick in the eighth round last year, and outfielder/first baseman Lance Ray was selected by the Minnesota Twins with the same pick in the 2010 draft.
Baker, blessed with a fastball in the mid-90s and an awesome curveball and slider, compiled the best pitching season in WNC history while earning Region 18 Pitcher of the Year honors. Baker wen 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA, He struck out 126 batters in 84 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .155 average.
Baker, who grew up in Alaska and was undrafted out of high school, said he expects to receive a signing bonus of approximately $200,000. He’ll report to the Indians’ Single-A farm team in approximately 10 days.
Baker said he’d been told a lot of different things by various scouts throughout the season.
“They were telling me I’d go in the second round and possibly the third, and I was excited by that. A couple of teams called me after Monday’s first round and said they were going to take me. It made things pretty stressful.
“I’m definitely happy about being selected. It’s really exciting. It makes me proud to be the top pick out of Western Nevada. I was pretty much a nobody last year.”
Western Nevada coach D.J. Whittemore anticipated that Baker would be taken between the 40th and 80th pick, but the draft’s unpredictability came into play. The Major League Baseball Network had projected Baker to be the 77th pick.
“It was a lifelong dream come true for Dylan, going from undrafted (out of high school) to a fifth-rounder this year,” Whittemore said. “That’s quite an honor. Now he gets to be paid to do something he’d probably pay somebody to do.
“Expectations not proven out can be very damaging. Dylan met all of my expectations. He worked his tail off every day and led us to the JUCO World Series.”
Baker came to WNC after spending his 2011 freshman season at Tacoma Community College. He compiled a 3-3 record and 3.47 ERA during his single season there. After transferring to WNC, Baker increased the velocity on his fastball while working with pitching coach Jeremy Beard.
Baker also improved his control, making his slider and curveball more effective pitches under Beard’s tutelage.
Baker credits Beard’s long-toss program and changes in his pitching mechanics with making his arm stronger.
“I’ve read that pro players like Dylan Bundy and Trevor Bauer liked working on the long toss, and that really motivated me,” Baker said. “Having really good coaches shows you how much better you can become in a year.”
Baker said Beard helped him with his stride so he was going toward the plate and not falling off to the left when he delivered the ball. Better breaking stuff also will help him excel, especially early in his professional career.
“The scouts talked to me a lot about my slider and curveball,” Baker said. “They were really impressed.
“I definitely have to keep my walks down. I know I walked quite a few batters, but I’m going to have walks ( I just don’t want to have as many). I want to work and keep getting stronger.”
Baker was used mostly as a starter, but he was the team’s closer in the Region 18 tournament.
“They haven’t really told me how I would be used,” baker said. “I really like starting, but I like closing, too. I’m not really big on middle relief.”
Whittemore said that Baker has a lot of work ahead of him and more levels to climb.
“At the end of the day, the draft is a preseason poll,” Whittemore said. “What you want to be is ranked at the end of the year.”
• Western Nevada College inormation officer Anne Hansen contributed to this story.