Almost five years since being selected by the Cardinals, infielder Luken Baker was promoted up to the Majors. The 26-year-old slugger joins a loaded St. Louis roster, but what should Cardinals fans expect from Baker? Here’s a closer look at the first baseman.
A Look at Baker
Former TCU star Luken Baker was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Baker was a highly-touted prospect out of high school, but opted to keep his commitment to TCU rather than turn pro.
Baker looked like a early-round in 2016, when he posted a 1.060 OPS and smashed eleven home runs in his freshman season. However, Baker was limited in each of his next two seasons but still showcased plus pop when healthy.
The 26-year-old saw his first taste of AAA in 2021, but spent his first full season at the level last season. While he did recorded career-lows in batting average (.228) and OPS (.683), Baker did slow flashes of brilliance as he hit 21 home runs and 35 extra base hits with the Redbirds. This year, though, has seen Baker dominate AAA pitchers. Through 54 games, Baker hit .313/.434/.641 with 18 home runs, 29 extra base hits, and 53 RBI.
No one will doubt Baker’s ability to drive the ball. The 6’4” boasts impressive power & bat speed, traits that were on full display on May 27 when Baker belted a rare broken-bat home run that easily cleared the left field wall in Memphis.
Strikeouts and the amount of contact Baker will make is a concern. Additionally, Baker will be limited to first or a DH, so don’t expect much in the way of defensive versatility. However, his right-handed power and ability to draw walks do make Baker an intriguing talent.
Baker became the fourth player from the Cardinals’ 2018 draft class to head to St. Louis. The first baseman will join Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, and Lars Nootbaar. The 26-year-old made his MLB debut on June 4 and recorded his first hit in his first at-bat.
A Look at the Cardinals
It didn’t seem like Baker, who tore up AAA, would have a path to the Majors with St. Louis entering the 2023 season. However, injuries to the Cardinals’ outfield shifted Tommy Edman to an outfield role and opened up a spot for the right-handed slugger.
The Cardinals offense has been fine for the most part this season, despite the early struggles of Nolan Arenado. St. Louis sits seventh in the league in team OPS (.756), as Nolan Gorman broke out and 2022 NL MVP and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt continues to mash. However, the Cards will need all the reinforcements it can get thanks to injuries and the fact that St. Louis is still a bit behind the Brewers in the standings.