Daniel Baca joined the Padres as a 17 year old straight from high school in Mexico. He played in Idaho Falls in 2003 and earned his stripes during a five game stint.
It was enough to whet the appetite for the youngster. Baca, who turns 19 on October 17, didn’t have the greatest stats in Idaho Falls but the promise was there.
Since he arrived so young, the Padres have handled him with kid gloves.
This year he was in Peoria – where the competition isn’t necessarily as good as the Pioneer League.
Suddenly, Baca looked dominating. The Padres knew he had a skill set but he exceeded the expectations of the staff.
“Daniel performed well,” said a Padres scout. “At his age we were hoping to just see some improvement but he has leaped ahead of where we projected him to be.”
The right-hander pitched in 23 games for Peoria and allowed six earned runs in 28 innings of work and gave up runs in eight of his outings. Only once did he surrender multiple hits in an inning and not allow a run. His success was simple. Keep hitters off the base paths and they will not score.
Baca also had a stretch of 13 games where he allowed just one earned run. He pitched in 16 innings during that span and allowed 11 hits. His ERA was a slim 0.92.
Over the last three weeks of the season, he seemed to tire and allowed runs in four of his last eight games and more earned runs than he had all year up to that point.
His role was middle relief and he blended a fastball that is still in its infancy stages that figures to gain velocity and an offspeed assortment that is still being worked on.
For an 18 year old to show the control he possessed (he walked more than one batter in a game just one time in his 23 appearances), it shows poise and a solid head on his shoulders. As he continues to gain experience and an arm that can last through longer stretches, it will foster into more confidence.
His age could keep him in Peoria another year. If he does begin there, it is not a stretch to see him quickly promoted to Eugene.