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Dillon Baird: Top Angels Prospect #28

28) Dillon Baird, 1/13/1988 - 1B, 3B Advanced Rookie Pioneer League

.372/.454/.568 with 8 HR and 1 SB. +26 bat, +2 glove

Rankings in a Nutshell: Baird can hit. No surprise there - he won the PAC 10 batting title, raking .433 for the University of Arizona through the spring of 2009.  Even with aluminum bats, however, he knocked only 15 HR's in his two-year college career, which kept him on the draft board long enough for the Halos to nab him in the 11th round last June. Teams just didn't think he was likely to develop the power necessary for a first baseman, and that remains the primary concern going forward.  If he can play third, where the Halos are working him in instructional league, the pressure on his bat decreases considerably.

Track Record:  Signs of more pop emerged in his pro debut: he hit only one homerun in 93 June and July plate appearances, but the wood bat thing clicked in August and he hit a homerun every 26 PA's from that point on. While not Babe Ruth territory, it was improvement.  And, at 6'3", 190, he has the frame to project for more power as he fills out.  He hit a relatively poor .265/.379/.367 against left-handers, but that was over just 58 PA's, so I won't call the split a red flag until we get a larger sample size. Baird showed good hands and enough range to accumulate a modest +2 glove rating at first, but he has the arm and potentially the mobility to play elsewhere. 

Win the Lottery Ceiling - At this point, he looks like he could develop into a pre-2009, pre-30 HR-hitting Andre Ethier - a nice mix of contact, walks, and average power.  He's built like Ethier too, though is not as athletic, so hopefully that comp continues to firm up in full season ball. He's headed to Cedar Rapids this year.

Scouting Report: (below the jump)

Baird's batted ball distribution at Orem was similar to what Roberto Lopez did with the Owlz when he led the league with a .400 BA: 45% groundballs, 19% line drives, and 35% fly balls.  Upon reaching Cedar Rapids, Lopez' BABIP dropped from .403 to .287, so it's pretty clear which direction Baird's pro .413 BABIP will head in Iowa. I doubt the regression takes his BABIP below .300 - Lopez appears to have been singularly unlucky - but Baird is going to have to continue building on his secondary skills so that he isn't so dependent on average.  His walk rate climbed from 9.4% at Arizona to 12.2% as a pro, so that's encouraging.

Baird has great hand-eye coordination and a loose, fluid swing, helping him to make consistent contact.  Although he occasionally flashes an inside out cut and drives the ball the other way, he still tries to pull more than he should, resulting in too much weak contact to the left side.  His whole body, not just his feet, drifts back when he loads his swing, causing his head to move quite a bit, but so far that hasn't inhibited his ability to make contact. At least until last July, he was inconsistent in working his lower half into swings: you can see in this pre-draft video that the position of his forward foot plant, and therefore his weight distribution, changes from at-bat to at-bat, though he maintains great balance in his in-game cuts.  This inconsistency, together with the lack of loft in his follow through, could be what limited his power production. 

I haven't seen video on him since early July, when his power outburst began, so the Angels coaches may have already tweaked his mechanics.  Also, scouting reports about his defense at third were not universally encouraging, though one Halos scout liked his arm and actions at the hot corner in high school. I hope to get a look at him at some point early this season.