Closer Conundrum: The Case For Pedro Baez
By Scott Andes
Alright, forget about that monstrous annoying home run that Baez allowed to Matt Holliday in last year’s division series. He should get a serious look to fill in as the closer while Kenley Jansen is recovering from his foot surgery.
One of the most important parts of being a closer is the ability to miss bats. You need a guy who can come in and strike guys out consistently. Kenley of course has that skill in spades. After all you don’t become an elite closer by whiffing 14.0 guys per nine innings by accident. Sigh, I miss Kenley already.
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With Pedro Baez we get a guy who has a blazing fastball. He’s shown us he has the ability to get swings and misses. The 26-year old Dominican right hander was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2007.
Similar to Kenley, Baez was a position player who was converted to a pitcher. Originally he was a third baseman, but he had trouble hitting. After batting just .216 at Chattanooga in 2012, (He hit just .228 at Rancho that year as well) the Dodgers decided to move him to the mound because of his strong throwing arm.
The young flamethrower has a cannon for an arm, and with Kenley’s success the Dodgers felt like they could reproduce something similar with Baez. After putting up a strikeout per nine rate of 8.5, and posting a 3.71 ERA in the minor leagues, the Dodgers called Baez up to the big club in May of 2014.
His first outing was a two inning performance in which he allowed a single and a home run. He was sent back to the minors immediately afterwards. He appeared in one more game in July, throwing a scoreless frame, and wasn’t recalled until later that summer.
In August he was finally recalled up and became a regular in the Dodger bullpen. He primarily pitched in middle relief, and instantly impressed everyone with his power pitching. During the month of August he allowed just one earned run on seven hits, whiffing seven in 12.2 innings of work.
He continued his solid pitching into September for the Dodgers. In that month he allowed just four earned runs in nine appearances, and recorded nine strikeouts. His overall numbers were pretty good for a guy who had only been pitching professionally for two years. Baez finished 2014 with a 2.63 ERA in 20 appearances. He whiffed 18 and walked just 5, while allowing seven earned runs on 16 hits in 24 frames. He posted an ERA+ of 135, and his FIP was 3.88. He struck out 6.8 hitters per nine, and allowed just 6.0 hits per nine.
Baez is primarily a fastball and slider guy, with his heaters touching into the upper 90’s. He does throw an occasional changeup, but hasn’t fully developed it yet. Once he does develop that changeup he could be pretty dangerous. He’s got the stuff, just needs more experience. He reminds me of a younger less refined Kenley. He could blossom as a closer until Kenley returns.
He exhibited good control, and posted an impressive strikeout to walk ratio of nearly 4-1. He might have shown his rookie colors by hanging a fastball to Holliday in the NLDS last year, but that wasn’t surprising for a young pitcher thrown into a pressure situation in October for the first time.