A few months ago, I was researching and collecting information for my Twins Top 50 Prospects column. I remember going through my personal Top 30 or so and thinking to myself that the process was going smoothly. Every player I had selected seems to fit within its right place. I only needed a few refinements and I was on my way to finishing up. Then I stumbled across a name with which I was admittedly unfamiliar and got excited. I recall looking at his numbers and literally saying out loud “Oh my God, who is this guy?” So then I did a little research on him and noticed that he was actually a stud when he was healthy, but had an injury riddled past, thus making his 2019 season almost an afterthought.
With the season delayed for 2020 (for now….hopefully), I thought I would do myself a favor and do a deeper dive into the world of this player, who was once listed as my number 35 prospect for 2020 until I aggressively moved him up to number 18. That man…..Bailey Ober.
Born: July 12, 1995
Drafted: 23rd round of 2016 June MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers
12th round of 2017 June MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins
Weight: 260 pounds
Position: Starting Pitcher
College of Charleston (NCAA)
2014: 10-3, 106.2 IP, 85 K, 73 H, 19 BB, 1.52 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
2015: missed entire season due to Tommy John surgery
2016: 7-4, 97.0 IP, 96 K, 90 H, 27 BB, 3.53 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2017: 7-2, 56.0 IP, 73 K, 56 H, 11 BB, 4.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Ober chose to stay at school after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 due to his own years of eligibility. Upon his return, he had back problems that limited him to a mere 10 starts. It’s understandable, given his size, but his promising post-Tommy John numbers indicated he was a pitcher learning that he didn’t need to throw hard to get batters out.
From what I’ve read about his background, at this time, he was a well rounded mature student of baseball. He studied the game on film, and tried to emulate Randy Johnson, who was another big and tall pitcher. However, once he hurt himself throwing hard, he knew his body wasn’t ready. He got the surgeries that he needed to fix the problems he was facing, and also took the time in school to develop himself. He knew he needed to fill in and grow with his big body, and felt that by doing so, he would help his own case by posting better numbers and to be more prepared for the grind of being a professional baseball player.
— Seth Stohs (@SethTweets) March 19, 2020
Elizabethton – Rookie Ball
2017: 2-2, 28.0 IP, 35 K, 24 H, 3 BB, 3.21 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
Cedar Rapids – A Ball
2018: 7-1, 75.0 IP, 88 K, 71 H, 9 BB, 3.84 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
A quick glance at the numbers show that he improved upon his beginnings in Rookie ball. While his K-rate dipped slightly, everything else improved as he was able to fit in nicely. The most promising decrease of all was his being able to lower his walk rate almost in half to 1.0/9. Moving onto 2018 in Cedar Rapids, Ober continued his excellent command by registering just 9 walks over 75 innings pitched. His K rate dropped slightly, but, at 10.6/9, that’s still nothing to sneeze at. His numbers jump off the charts to me.
Gulf Coast League Twins – Rookie Ball
Fort Myers – A+ Ball
Pensacola – AA Ball
2019 (combined): 8-0, 78.2 IP, 100 K, 55 H, 9 BB, 0.69 ERA, 0.81 WHIP
Despite not pitching in all of 2019 due to right ulnar elbow sublation, Ober’s counting numbers are damn impressive and almost video game-like. He didn’t pitch his first game until July and ended the year in triple digit strikeouts. He maintains his remarkable command here by issuing only 9 walks over 78.2 innings.
The manner in which he pitches is completely against the grain of thinking. With their height and weight, most big and tall pitchers look fierce and intimidating due to their size and the length of their arms. They subsequently throw the ball on a greater downhill plane and actually release the ball closer to home plate than shorter pitchers would. Ober’s downward plane release therefore makes his pitch move differently than shorter pitchers’ pitches would, but they do so at a slower rate, due to his low fastball speed. With his fastball topping out in the mid 80’s the combination of a unique spin, it has seemed to confuse hitters thus far. With a plus change up mixed in, hitters seem to be guessing at where his pitches are going.
Is there a wackier pitching prospect in baseball right now than Bailey Ober?
He’s 6’9″. Throws ~86 mph. And had a sub-1 ERA as a starter this past year up through AA.
Very possibly the best chance at resurrecting the mid-80s velo SP in the majors.
— Nathaniel Stoltz (@stoltzs_words) April 6, 2020
What that means going forward?
2020 was supposed to be the year that Ober came out of the shadows and into the hearts of scouts everywhere. He would have been one year removed from his elbow problems and ready to prove to the world that he’s got what it takes. However, sometimes you can make lemonade out of the lemons you’ve been dealt. Perhaps a full year off will help fully heal any arm problems that he has. Unfortunately for Ober, it’s been those injuries that haven’t allowed scouts to see his full arsenal, either before or during his pro ball career. Once that happens, adjusting to a full workload of a starter is the next step. A full year off due to the coronavirus could be detrimental to a 24-year-old prospect with starting pitcher hopes and dreams.
While the numbers in his career are impressive, he’s only once pitched more than 100 innings in a season. He needs to be stretched out if he’s going to find a role as a starter. If he can stretch himself out while developing both his below average fastball and curve ball, while keeping his arm at rest from duress, then the Twins have themselves a diamond in the rough here, with back-end of the rotation potential. If he can only develop one pitch, then the Twins have themselves a high quality relief pitcher with potential closer appeal. If injuries reoccur or things don’t go as planned, then perhaps he’s a fringe player and I over-ranked him. Whatever the case is, when baseball resumes, keep your eye on Ober because the potential for something great is there.
#MNTwins prospect Bailey Ober was 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 100 strikeouts against just nine walks in 78 2/3 innings last season.
Full video here: https://t.co/vXwzZUtBXe pic.twitter.com/NGhzTnTo7k
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) March 28, 2020
Dave Funnell covers the Minnesota Twins minor leagues for Prospects1500. Located just south of Toronto in the city of Hamilton, he's an hour away from Buffalo (and the Bisons). He's been a fan of baseball his entire life and doesn't have a favorite team, which hopefully gives way for objectivty in analysis. Dave is in multiple keeper fantasy baseball leagues and is active on Twitter at @sportz_nutt51.