What Does 2024 Hold for Darren Baker?

Jake Irvin, Jacob Young, and Jose A. Ferrer were all players who got a chance to perform in 2023, and they all exceeded expectations. 2024 could have the same story for a 5’10 second baseman with a family legacy.
Jul 16, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; National League Futures infielder Darren Baker (4) reacts after
Jul 16, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; National League Futures infielder Darren Baker (4) reacts after / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2023 was finally the year that Nationals’ fans got introduced to a full season of 24-year-old second baseman Luis Garcia. Unfortunately, Garcia struggled on the infield and at the plate, committing costly errors and only hitting 9 homers in 122 games. Garcia's glove has also struggled at the start of his career, committing 40 errors over 4 seasons, including 24 from the second base position. Garcia first broke into the league in 2020 and became the first player born in the 2000s to hit a homer. There was a reputation around the club that Luis was the next Juan Soto, due to similar power numbers and even a similar batting stance in the minor leagues. However, Garcia has some promising projections heading into the spring. Baseball Reference projects a .272 AVG over 479 plate appearances, including 25 doubles and a .416 SLG. With top prospects quickly rising through the system, Garcia has a lot of pressure not only going into the regular season but Garcia’s replacement could be uncovered during Spring Training.

In 2021, The Washington Nationals selected former Manager Dusty Baker’s son, Darren, with the 293rd overall pick. Baker, a left-handed 5’10 second baseman from California College, began his career with Fredericksburg and showed fans that he could hit the ball. Baker totaled 21 hits in 66 at-bats (.318 AVG) during his Low-A stint. Baker received an invite to 2022 and 2023 spring training, as well as play at the futures game in 2022. Baker notably hit a Grand Slam to help beat his Father’s Astros during 2023 spring training.

Coming into the season, Baker would still be in Single-A ball due to injury, but after 8 games, would head straight to Triple-AAA Rochester. Over 99 games, Baker continued to hit well, with a .273 AVG as well as stealing 19 bags. Baker’s glove would also shine at second base.

Darren Baker will likely receive a non-roster invite to this year’s spring training and will have to compete for a 40-man spot as well. Baker comes with a lot of upside. It has been proven that Darren can swing the bat, holding a career .286 AVG, as well as promising speed with 38 stolen bases. Baker has speed, contact ability, and fielding ability. I’d compare Baker to a Jacob Young-type prospect. good speed, not much power, a good mentality, and a baseball IQ as well.

2024 could be the year that Darren Baker breaks into the big leagues as an in-season call-up. This year does uphold some competition for Baker, as Trey Lipscomb is looming in Double-AA, the MiLB winner of the Gold Glove at Third Base, and infielder Nasim Nunez was drafted in the Rule-5 Draft.

Needless to say, the Nationals have several in-house options for Second Base if Garcia's struggles continue or if his focus/preparation are not up to the Nationals' standards like last season, which resulted in a demotion to AAA Rochester. Nuñez will likely see some time at Second Base, but his bat is not much of a threat to take over the everyday role, particularly offensively. Lipscomb could be a fast riser, as he has the defensive versatility to make the switch from Third Base to Second Base. But it could be Baker who gets the first chance to seize the role, and after a strong showing last season, he may just be ready to do so.