B/R Exclusive Interview with Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Nate Baker
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Nate Baker. He is a starting pitcher for the Pirates' Class A Advanced Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League.
Nate Baker was drafted in the fifth round in 2009 from Ole Miss and has not disappointed the Pirates organization since joining. Currently in his second full season, he has compiled a career minor league record of 17-15 with a 3.21 ERA and averaging 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
It Is in the Genes
It should come as no surprise to those who know the Baker family history.
Nate's father, Tim, was an outfielder and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. His grandfather, Chuck Daniels pictured here, was a relief pitcher for the 1957 Detroit Tigers and played professional baseball for eight years.
I asked Nate what he learned from his father and grandfather about the game and if there was any advice he was given. "Just give it your all every game and play each game like it is your last," Baker said.
Nate Baker was pleasantly surprised during the 2009 MLB draft. Leading up to the draft, he said he was hearing "that I would most likely be going somewhere between rounds eight and 12".
He said he watched the first round of the draft that year as I am sure most players hoping to drafted do.
He said when Day 2 came around, he actually didn't watch any of the draft and was surprised when the Pirates called to let him know he had been picked in the fifth.
Happy To Be a Pirate
It is no secret the Pittsburgh Pirates are building their organization from within. They have had this organizational philosophy for years, and the Pirates have started to show some dividends on the field recently.
I asked Nate what he thought about being apart of an organization that values the farm system as much as the Pirates: "I love being part of an organization that values their prospects as much as the Pirates do. We just added Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick this year, and I am happy to be part of this organization."
In my opinion, the Pirates are definitely heading in the right direction with the players they have brought in over the past few years, even if it has taken longer than some fans would hope.
I asked Nate if he had any favorite pitchers growing up or any pitchers he follows now and mentioned two pitchers—the Red Sox's Jon Lester and the Ray's David Price.
He said he has rooted for Lester because of the struggles he overcame earlier in his career and the fact that he is such a talented pitcher.
He also mentioned David Price, who was the first overall pick in 2007 but was an SEC opponent before he was drafted.
Nate was pitching at Ole Miss while David was at Vanderbilt. Naturally, there was a connection there, and he said he has followed his career since Price was drafted.
Nate has had success at every level to this point in his major league career. He was named as an All-Star last year in the South Atlantic League, which he said was an honor to be picked.
Early on this season, he struggled a bit, with a 4.31 ERA through 14 starts but has turned it around in the last 12 games he pitched going 6-3 with an ERA of 2.93.
He attributed this turn around to changing his mechanics a bit by bringing his glove over his head during his windup.
He also said he has worked on his command and has been keeping the ball down more as of late.
He has had added a slider to his pitching repertoire that includes a fastball and changeup that has helped him achieve his recent success.
I think every player in the minor leagues has the same goal, and that is to play in the majors one day.
I asked Nate what he is trying to work on to make that dream come true and he said, "I am trying to work on my consistency. In college, I was primarily a relief pitcher and have made the transition to a starting role since being drafted."
I asked him which role he prefers either as a starter or coming out of the bullpen and he gave a very simple answer: "I just want to pitch." Speaking with Nate you can tell how much he enjoys the game and he really does just want to pitch.
I would like to thank Nate for taking some time out during his season to talk with me and wish him the best of luck the rest of the season and his career.
For any fans out there who are interested in following Nate, he is on Twitter @natebake21.