He was promoted to Double-A New Britain on May 26th and he’s been knocked in his three starts since then but that can’t take away from the recent honor bestowed upon RHP D.J. Baxendale. On Tuesday he was named the Florida State League’s Topps Pitcher of the Month for May.
In each of his four starts for Fort Myers last month he lasted 7.0 innings and did so while never allowing more than four hits any of them. In three of his starts he didn’t allow an earned run. The final stat line produced was an eye popping 0.32 ERA, 0.64 WHIP and 23-5 SO-to-BB in 28.1 innings of work.
Obviously he was very deserving of the award and the promotion. Of course the bump to Double-A was fueled by more than just a hot four start stretch last month. On the season with the Miracle he was 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 9 starts. He had allowed just 34 hits and 11 walks while striking out 48 over 57.1 innings during that stretch. His numbers were a continuation of the success he had last year pitching in the Appalachian and Midwest Leagues. Of course this year’s early performance stood out more considering last year he worked out of the bullpen and this season he’s been used exclusively as a starter.
Unfortunately since joining the Rock Cats rotation in the Eastern League the Twins 2012 10th round pick has been unable to come remotely close to replicating his FSL success. With New Britain he’s made three starts that have resulted in a combined 19 hits and 13 runs in 16.2 innings. After serving up just two home runs in his first 76.0 IP as a professional he’s been tagged for five since moving up.
It’s hard to look past the 7.02 ERA and 1.50 WHIP but there’s some reason for optimism.
He’s managed to keep his strikeout rate on par with his FSL days fanning 7.0 batters per nine in AA compared to 7.5 SO/9 in A+. That’s certainly a postive, but more importantly we already know he can have success at the level. While his first and third starts with the Rock Cats were clunkers, he allowed just 3 hits, 2 walks and 1 run while striking out 7 in 7.0 innings of work on June 4th against Richmond. The same team that tagged him for 9 hits and 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings in his Eastern League debut.
Baxendale doesn’t throw hard generally sitting in the low-90s and upper 80s with his fastball but it has movement and he uses it effectively. His calling card is his curveball, a legitimate pitch that he can throw for strikes and use to put batters away. He also has a changeup and has some experience throwing a cutter from his days as an amateur.
His best chance to reach the major league will most likely come by way of the bullpen but for 9 starts in the Florida State League he was one of the best starting pitchers in the minors.