Get To Know Twins RHP Prospect Bailey Ober
Image courtesy of David McQueen (photo of Bailey Ober)Bailey Ober grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte doesn’t have a major league team nearby. The Charlotte Knights are the AAA affiliate of the White Sox. In 2014, they moved into a new downtown stadium. So for Ober, he didn’t have a favorite team. Instead, he had favorite players.
“I enjoyed watching a lot of college baseball and pro ball. I just grew up watching and loving the game. There were a couple of guys, but they’re everyone’s favorites. Guys like Chipper Jones or Ken Griffey, Jr. I liked Randy Johnson because of how tall he was. I kind of emulated him, trying to throw like him because I knew I was taller than everybody else. Now that I’ve got to where I’m at, I realize that’s a little out there considering he was a lefty throwing 100.”
Ober stands 6-8 now. Sure, he played high school basketball through his sophomore season, but he knew when he was very young what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Ober said, “I knew what I wanted to be by first grade. I wrote a letter to my teacher saying I wanted to be a professional baseball player.”
During his high school summers, Ober played on the travel circuit, spending time in Florida and Georgia for “a couple weeks at a time.”
Ober spent the final two years of his high school career at Charlotte Christian, the same school that the Bard brothers attended. Over those two seasons, he went a combined 20-1 and helped the team to two state championships.
Upon graduation, he got something memorable in the mail. His first grade teacher mailed him the letter he wrote. “That was pretty cool. Obviously it hadn’t yet come true, but I was going to play college baseball, so there was something there.”
Bailey Ober said he talked to a few scouts while in high school, but knew that college was the right decision for him and let it be known. “I wasn’t really physically mature at that time, so I chose to go to college.”
Matt Heath was the pitching coach at the College of Charleston and happened to see Ober pitch a few times. “He wanted me to come down to Charleston as soon as I could. I went down there the next week and committed on the spot.” He continued, “It’s hard, when you come down to Charleston, to not want to go to school there. The city is unbelievable.”
He arrived the next fall in Charleston and didn’t pitch much because of “a tiny little fracture.”
He wasn’t sure what kind of freshman season he might have, but when the spring season began, he made a quick first impression.
“In my first college game, against Chapel Hill, the starter went just four innings due to pitch count. Coach Heath went to me, and I went the final five innings, scoreless. I got the win in my first ever college baseball game. From there, it just kind of took off.”
In that freshman season, Ober went 10-3 with a 1.52 ERA in 106.2 innings. He was the Conference Player of the Year and he was also the national Freshman of the Year.
That summer, he pitched for a Team USA roster that also included Tyler Jay. But in the fall, he started experiencing some arm issues.
As he notes, “I was throwing, and after a curveball, I felt a little pull in my forearm. It wasn’t technically my elbow, but it wasn’t right. I just walked off. I had an MRI, and it just showed some inflammation in my flexor tendon.”
He took a few months off and started throwing again in January. “My first bullpen back, the same thing happened. I felt a pull. This time it was a little worse. It still wasn’t technically in the elbow. I was told to be cautious, but no surgery. I started rehabbing and just as the season was about to start… Again.”
This time, it was a little worse. He went to get a second opinion. He said, “The doctor said that I could keep rehabbing and returning, or you can go ahead and get surgery done.”
So that’s what he did. He missed the entire 2015 season. He received a redshirt. He went through the long process of rehabbing following the surgery and says that the elbow has been perfect the last couple of years.
He returned to the mound in 2016. He went 7-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 15 starts. In 97 innings, he struck out 96 batters. As a red-shirt sophomore, he was draft-eligible, and he was selected by the Dodgers in the 23rd round.
“After Tommy John, it was a big up and down year. I didn’t feel 100% until the last month where I had four starts that I felt I was back. They (teams/scouts) didn’t have a lot to go on with me. The cross-checkers didn’t really get to see me pitch the first half of the year, I knew it was going to take a lot for me to come out because I was a red-shirt sophomore. I would have two years of eligibility left. I was 20 years old, still young.”
So he went back for his fourth college season. He went 7-2 with a 4.50 ERA in just ten starts due to a back injury.
As it relates to the draft, simply put, he was ready to make the move to pro ball. “This past year, I was ready to come out, ready to start my career. I knew this was the time for me to come out.”
He wasn’t sure where he would go in the draft, and he understood that it was really out of his control. The Twins took him in the 12th round, and he was happy about it.
“When I heard that the Twins drafted me, I was so excited. I knew this is where I was supposed to be. I knew this was supposed to happen, and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
As we mentioned, Ober got married shortly after signing and then reported to Elizabethton. Playing there was something that Ober really enjoyed, and it wasn’t too terribly far from home.
“To me, it was a great experience. It was the first time I was really just focusing on baseball and that’s it. Doing your job everyday. Going to the field early every day. Making sure you’re getting your workouts in. I just love the daily routine. The town is small, but it works. It has a great feel to it, and we had a great group of guys that played together and really came together.”
A quick scouting report on Ober tells us that he has four pitches. His fastball reached up to 92 and 93 mph. He is said to have a plus changeup and both a curveball and a slider. At 6-8, he’s got that downhill plane that Bert Blyleven likes to talk about as well.
According to Ober himself, “I’m able to command all of my pitches and really just work in and out with my fastball, up and down. I primarily pitch off my fastball. It’s one of my strengths. Keep hitters off balance, mixing my speeds. I’d say my changeup is probably my best offspeed.”
Ober is enjoying his first offseason as a pro ball player. He says he’s spending time on the links. “I’m a big golfer. I like to golf.”
Ober’s family is close and he spends a lot of time in Charlotte with them. His brother plays baseball and UNC-Charlotte. Ober says, “Whenever I go home, it’s good to hang out with my family, and to hang out with my brother.”
He and his wife, who is finishing up her schooling, also have spent time in Charleston with some college buddies. “There’s lots of stuff to do down here. We go to the beach. Or we find a good restaurant that we haven’t discovered yet.”
As for the baseball in his first offseason, it has been a little challenging. He notes, “It’s challenging because you don’t know what the Twins are looking for. This spring training will definitely be an eye opener. Next offseason, I’ll know more what to do during the offseason. The stuff that I’ve been working on is the mechanical issues. Not really any big ones, but just trying to make them cleaner. Also, I’m just working on spinning the ball and staying healthy.”
His goals as he approaches his first spring training are pretty simple, at least in theory. “The main thing is just to stay healthy and adjust to a 5-man rotation. I just want to stay healthy and prove to myself and other people that I can get through a full season.”
And that is the key. There is a lot of upside in Bailey Ober. Consider his size and projectability. Consider what he did in his first year of college, before the Tommy John surgery. If he can stay healthy, Ober has a real chance to be a steal in the draft in the 12th round.
You can follow Bailey Ober on Twitterand Instagram.
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