Aaron Baker will tell you now that, as the trade deadline approached last summer, he didn’t expect to be leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
They had drafted the first baseman in the 11th round in 2009 out of the University of Oklahoma and he made the mid-year All-Star teams in both his previous seasons in the short-season Single-A New-York Penn League in 2009 and the Single-A South Atlantic League in 2010.
But on July 30, Baker was dealt to the Orioles as Derrek Lee went to Pittsburgh.
“I was really surprised,” the 24-year-old Baker said. “I had no idea I was being traded. I actually found out through my best friend. He was keeping up with the talks at the time and said he saw the Pirates were about to get Derrek Lee for an A-ball hitter. He asked if I was that guy and I said I hadn’t heard of anything, but I ended up being that guy.”
The lefty-hitting Baker was having a good year for Single-A Bradenton of the Florida State League up until the deal, batting .282 with 21 doubles, 15 homers, 73 RBIs and an .820 OPS in 103 games.
He kept hitting after the Orioles assigned him to Single-A Frederick, batting .386 with two homers and nine RBIs in 12 games.
“They treated me great,” he said of his time with the Orioles. “As far as the players go, everyone made me feel real comfortable and a part of the team from day one. That goes the same for the staff and rovers and coordinators. They made me feel like I never changed teams.”
Baker struggled when moved to Double-A Bowie, batting just .196 without a homer in 15 games, with 19 strikeouts in 46 at-bats.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Baker said. “I got to watch a lot of good players play. Got to watch Joe Mahoney and and see how he prepared for each night. Something to look forward to in the future.”
With the Orioles, Baker can also look forward to a bit a logjam at the upper levels of the minors at first base with players like Brandon Snyder, Mahoney, Tyler Townsend and himself.
“You always kind of notice who is in front of you and you keep one eye on how they are doing,” Baker said of the competition at first. “But you need to work on what you need to do to advance. Anywhere you go, it will be a challenge. I guess it’s a good thing for Baltimore fans. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
“I think Oriole fans can look at me as a guy that will show up every night and play hard. That is the way I was brought up to play. I’m always looking for ways to get better and hopefully hard work will pay off.”
Power and patience have been two words used to describe Baker. He has a good eye at the plate and can drive the ball when he gets hold of it.
“I would like to say so, yes. I have always been fortunate to be able to drive in runs. A lot of being able to drive in runs involves the guys batting in front of me. I also want to be a guy who can leadoff an inning and get on base. Be able to bunt and moves guys over. Be an all-around fundamentally sound player,” he said.
Baker said he has a definite goal for this winter.
“After some down time, I want to get back to working out and focus on my diet,” he said. “I want to show up for spring training looking like a new guy. I really want to be able to prove myself in this organization.
“I want to slim down. I’ve gained a little weight over the last few years and need to get back into the good habits of eating right and working out properly to maximize my athletic ability.
“I want to drop about 15 to 20 pounds, which is definitely doable. It will take a lot of hard work. Going to try a few things this offseason and see what happens.”
Baker said he played in the 240-245-lb. range this season and wants to play next year at 220-225 lbs.