Organization: Seattle Mariners || 2016 club: Bakersfield Blaze (A-Adv.)
Position: IF/OF || Age: 23 || DOB: October 25, 1992 || Birthplace: Alpharetta, GA
Acquired: 2014 MLB Draft (21st rd., Clemson) || 2016 prospect rank: None
2016 stats: 131 games, 524 AB, .252/.328/.368/.696, 28 2B, 9 HR, 55 BB, 109 K, 14 SB
- Baum’s 2016
After spending 2015 with High-A Bakersfield, the Mariners sent Jay Baum back there in 2016, and although the super-utility athlete didn’t shock the world with his numbers, his game developed in a really interesting way.
As the summer progressed, he ended up turning in a really under-the-radar, solid second half in the California League. The numbers are what they are (524 AB, .252/.328/.368, 28 doubles, 9 HR, 55 BB, 109 K), and yet they don’t quite tell the whole story of a guy the Blaze were able to plug into almost any position, all year long.
Baum spent time at all four infield positions as well as both corner outfield positions, and showed the ability to play all of them to a capable level. He’s talented in short spurts in the middle infield, he’s probably a better fit in in longer runs in the infield corners, and he can play both right and left with ease, but the combination of all of that—plus a developing power bat—allowed him to get in the lineup every day and put together a far more consistent summer than he had in 2015.
He killed left-handed pitching (.310/.373/.504 with nine doubles, three home runs and 12 walks in 118 at-bats), and he had an exceptional August (.300/.379/.482 with six doubles, four home runs and 14 walks in 27 games), a particularly good sign since he by far played the most games of his career this summer. That’s a good way to finish a season and a great way to ride into the offseason as he stares down Double-A next year.
No, his overall numbers aren’t exceptional, and sure, you’d love to see a soon-to-be 24-year-old in his second shot at High-A run through the league with more ease, perhaps. But down the stretch for the Blaze, Baum was one of the club’s most solid overall athletes—and Bakersfield likely would have been hard-pressed to make the playoffs, and/or succeed in the first round, without him. That final five or six weeks of baseball in 2016 is a hint of the kind of player Baum can become, and it’s not an unattractive option, especially considering his positional flexibility.
- Scouting Baum
Baum’s approach at the plate is pretty quiet and conventional, starting slightly open with a wide base and then giving way to a conventional stride length. His upper body, too, is quiet through his approach, though his hands start further forward toward the center of his body than some, and thus must drift further back to load position. Even with that, though, he doesn’t experience significant bat wrap like you might expect with hands that drift that far, and he’s still relatively quick through the ball.
Baum’s spray chart is exactly what you’d hope for from a now third-year pro ballplayer who came out of a major college program (Clemson), and he’s shown the ability to not only develop power to his pull side but also flash a decent line drive swing to his opposite field:
The whole thing makes for a pretty standard, middle-of-the-road projection for him as a hitter: Baum should continue to develop a little more power as he ages and gains strength, awareness of his own swing path and approach, and some more nuances of situational hitting.
He’ll probably never be one to hit for average, or for significant power, but he ought to be able to handle the bat well in the high minors and flash a little bit of both those tools at times, especially if he’s able to be in a lineup nearly every day as a super-utility guy.
- Going Forward
Baum has earned the right to begin 2017 in Double-A. It’ll be his age-24 season, so he’s starting to approach that organizational depth-level territory if he fails at that level next summer, but there are aspects of his game that could be valuable to the Mariners down the road. He’s always been a pretty significant super-utility guy, moving around to six different positions with regularity, and that in and of itself might end up making his career.
Should he continue to develop some power and prove proficient in as many as six spots on the diamond, that combination will give him the ability to play for some time to come. These type of super-utility guys (Kiké Hernandez immediately comes to mind, and other players in that vein) are very valuable, and that is Baum’s best path to the majors. A consistent showing in Double-A next summer will go a long way to putting him on the radar for that big league role in the future.