Being a 12th round pick from the College of Charleston isn’t a spot that puts many players on the prospect map. That’s where Bailey Ober got his professional start, and he has undoubtedly made something of his professional career. Only three players from that round have made their big league debuts, and Ober is the only player out of the group to play more than one game.
Ober doesn’t fit the mold of the type of pitcher that organizations seek out as the game has continued to evolve. All four of his pitches are below league average when it comes to miles per hour. His Baseball Savant page has more blue than red, which points to him not being very successful so far in his big-league career. However, his recent starts point to some positive signs.
Part of Ober’s scouting report has been the deceptive nature of his fastball. He’s 6-foot-9, and his wingspan allows his release point to be closer to the plate than some other pitchers. Also, he has started getting more vertical movement on his fastball that wasn’t present in some of his earlier starts. This movement matches his scouting reports from the minors, and it might be the biggest key for him sticking long-term in the big leagues.
During July, Ober saw other improvements as well. He started five games and allowed ten earned runs over 22 2/3 innings. Also, he struck out 25 batters and only issued eight walks. Hitters were only able to compile a .214/.283/.429 slash line, which showed improvement over the .891 OPS he held entering the month.
Bailey Ober will never be a top of the rotation starter, but there is always a need for rotational depth. Right now, Kenta Maeda is the lone name penciled in for the 2022 rotation, and there are no guarantees with him. His name was mentioned in multiple rumors at the trade deadline, and the Twins can revisit those deals this winter.
There are things Ober can continue to improve on throughout the season’s remaining games. As mentioned earlier, the vertical movement on his fastball is one of his biggest keys. He’s also been giving up plenty of hard-hit balls so far in his career. When he is at his best, he gets players to chase pitches and controls the strike zone. There have already been signs of those improvements in his most recent starts.
Innings and pitch count limits are also part of the discussion with Ober and his ability to make improvements. Entering the season, Ober's career high in innings pitched was 78 2/3 innings back in 2019 when he also missed time with elbow issues. He didn't pitch at all in 2020, so the Twins, like many MLB teams this season, are going to be careful with young pitchers. He is already over 63 innings in 2021 and the team likely wants him to pitch over 100 innings.
So, what’s the upside with Ober? If he can continue to make improvements, he should be at the back-end of the rotation for multiple seasons. Minnesota has plenty of pitching prospects working their way to the big leagues, so Ober will have to prove that he can succeed over the long term.
What have your impressions been of Ober so far in his career? Can he continue to improve? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.