This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Luken Baker
Stats: 33 G, 99 PA, 9 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .209/.313/.314, -0.4 bWAR
Statcast: 7.3% barrel, 38.2% sweet spot, 111.1 max exit velocity, .285 wOBA, .318 xwOBA, 31.3% K, 13.1% BB
It’s definitely not fair to term Baker as a “Quad A” player just yet. He’s had less than 100 at bats in the major leagues and that’s about as small of a sample size as you can have. If nothing else, he’s made his major league debut, he has home runs in the big leagues, and he has memories that he’ll never forget, even if it’s from a season of misery. Couple all that with his power surge in the minor leagues and the fact that he was International League MVP this season and it’s too early to give up on the slugging first baseman.
Baker is 26 years old, will be 27 when the season rolls around next year. He was right about league average age at Memphis and it was his second year in the land of the delta blues. He does have more plate discipline than you would expect from a player with his profile but he’s still got a lot of swing and miss as well and not the kind the club is actually looking for this winter. Couple all that with the logjam that is first and DH, as Baker would tend to fall behind 2-3 different players at each spot as a long-term solution, and maybe it’s not too early to give up on the slugging first baseman.
I think “give up” is the wrong thing to say here. Obviously there’s too much talent there for the club to just put him on waivers this offseason. The 40-man issues aren’t that bad. Baker still has a couple of option years left so at worst you send him down to Memphis to smash a little bit more, even though he will start being old for the league come next season. There’s no reason to discard him like yesterday’s newspaper, assuming anyone still gets a physical copy of the newspaper.
There doesn’t seem to be a real good spot for him in St. Louis, though. Even if Paul Goldschmidt leaves after 2024, a situation I don’t expect, Jordan Walker or Nolan Gorman or even Alec Burleson (assuming the latter two are still with the club) would probably call dibs. Maybe Baker could find his way into a platoon situation but that seems the best case scenario. If there’s an opportunity for him to be added to a deal this winter, it might be in his best interests if he was included.
What’s in store for 2024: Homers, lots of homers. The power will play, whether he’s in Memphis, St. Louis, or another major league city. I don’t think there’s any reason to expect him to hit significantly fewer dingers, barring injury. It’s possible he turns out to be another Luke Voit, a guy that thrived for a year or so outside of St. Louis, then bounced around for a bit. If that’s his career path, pretty sure Baker would take it in a heartbeat.