As any person over 6 feet will tell you, being tall is overrated. Your entire life comes with bigger expectations that due to your height you have the ability to do things smaller men can’t. Everything has to be bigger, stronger, and faster. It’s in this vein I introduce you to 6’8 Cuban import Michel Baez. Yes that is spelled correctly. While researching this post, trying to look under every rock for as much information as possible about the giant righty, I came across the comment section of MLB Trade Rumors from the day he signed. Let’s just say there are some gems. For example the guy who was really put off that a 6’8 pitcher didn’t throw 100, but a reported 93-97. You know, because control, command, fastball plane, and deception don’t matter at all. Only velocity!!! BTW is 96-97 not fast? Someone else wondered why the Padres gave him $3m, when he’s 6’8 and unknown. How can you miss a 6’8 guy? You know, because talented 5’10 guys never stick out on scouting trips. Scouts and prospectors only notice big shiny things. Okay, I’m getting off track here. Regardless of the opining of MLB Trade Rumor commenters, Baez did in fact fly under the radar. Turning out to be yet another diamond in the rough unearthed by my spirit animal A.J. Preller. How under the radar was Baez? So much so, that in the fall he didn’t appear in any of the international free agent rankings on MLB.com, Baseball America, or Fangraphs. Fast forward 9 months and many are saying Baez is a slam dunk for Top 100 lists going forward. Hell, he ranked #141 for me on my Top 200. A few weeks late I think I might have sold him short, then again he’s an A ball pitching prospect. Now let’s dig into Baez, and see if he might be the Top 100 guy many are touting.
As for Baez the player the he’s been impressive to say the least in his stateside debut, through 23 innings with the Padres A ball affiliate Fort Wayne he’s allowed 2 earned runs while striking out 33. This comes after just one start with San Diego’s rookie level Arizona League team, where he earned rave reviews from my favorite twitter follow Chris Kusiolek. The fastball has ticked up to 98 MPH with regularity and there’s talk of him hitting triple digits, I haven’t seen it myself. Obviously with that sort of size, there’s excellent downhill plane on the fastball, and some run too, meaning he should avoid the ills of a Giolito-Straight heater. He commands and controls it well too, consistently hitting his spots which is one of the bigger questions with any starter taller than 6’4. Bigger guys have more moving parts and typically have mechanical issues that they need to work through, think Tyler Glasnow. Fortunately it also means he’s built to eat innings, having gone at least 5 or more in every single one of his starts. Here’s some video from Baez’s last start where he blows one by Diamondbacks prospect Marcus Wilson.
The secondaries are where I have questions with Baez, I’ve seen a mid-80’s slider with some bite, but I’m not comfortable enough to label it anything but slightly above average. He does features a third pitch in a fringy changeup, but it’s an offering he needs to hone in order to make the leap from projectable hype-train to front of the rotation lock. If he doesn’t develop the change, we might be sliding into the dreaded “pen-arm” territory, but that tends to exist with any starter that lacks a deep arsenal of offerings.
In closing Baez looks to be a top prospect arm on the rise. One, who depending on how the next year goes could wind up a top 50 prospect rather easily. Look at how quickly an arm like Sixto Sanchez shot to the top of the heap in the best pitching prospect in baseball conversation. For right now Baez is a great buy, and if you’re in a league where he’s available and are looking for an arm, he’d be one of the first I’d add. Just in case you’re wondering I put my money where my mouth is too. Making Baez my highest auction bid to date in the Razzball 30 teamer, Razz30, dropping $30 of my $200 for FAAB.
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