Saints Sign Former All-Star Infielder Chris Baker, Hard Throwing Reliever Ryan Smith
ST. PAUL, MN - With all the injuries and players having their contracts purchased, the St. Paul Saints are still firmly in a playoff spot as they flip the schedule to the second half of the season. Looking to retool, the Saints signed a former All-Star infielder, Chris Baker, and a right-handed reliever that lit up the radar gun at CHS Field just weeks ago, Ryan Smith.
The 24-year-old Baker was at Double-A Amarillo this season where he was hitting .192 with two home runs and eight RBI in 36 games before being released on July 2.
Baker was a 17th round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2016 out of the University of Washington. In his first season of professional baseball he turned heads as he was selected to the Northwest League All-Star Team. He hit .303 with two home runs and 27 RBI in 54 games. In 201 at bats he scored 33 runs, ripped 11 doubles, stole 14 bases, had a .389 on base percentage and a .388 slugging percentage. He finished sixth in the Northwest League in batting average. Baker had a nine game hitting streak from July 2-10 and then an eight game streak from July 13-19. He collected four hits on August 9 vs. Spokane. His impressive numbers earned him a promotion to Single-A Fort Wayne where he hit .286 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 17 games.
In 2017, Baker spent the entire season at High-A Lake Elsinore where he hit .210 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 101 games. In 376 at bats he scored 36 runs, smashed 16 doubles, three triples, a .270 on base percentage, and a .316 slugging percentage. He finished the season leading all second baseman in games (88), total chances (373), assists (232) and double plays (55). Baker doubled in three-straight from April 17-19 and had a two home run, five RBI day on May 23 vs. Inland Empire.
Last season Baker spent the season with Lake Elsinore and hit .248 with four home runs and 27 RBI in 64 games. In 218 at bats he scored 30 runs, had 10 doubles, two triples, a .301 on base percentage, and a .367 slugging percentage. Baker hit safely in a career high 12-straight games from August 5-19.
Baker was a 2016 All-Pac 12 at the University of Washington and was All-Defensive Team that season as well. He helped St. Francis High School win the CIF-CCS Championship in 2013 as they finished number three in California and number seven in the nation.
The 29-year-old Smith was pitching for the Texas AirHogs in the American Association this season. He lit up the radar gun at CHS Field on June 25 when he hit 99 miles per hour. Overall, Smith is 1-4 with a 11.95 ERA in 16 relief appearances. In 20.1 innings pitched he walked eight and struck out 22 while opponents are hitting .379 against him. He has pitched twice against the Saints and both times threw 2.0 scoreless innings.
Baker signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 2009 where he pitched in two games at the Gulf Coast level. He allowed six runs in 5.0 innings of work.
In 2010 Baker began the season with the Arizona League Reds and went 0-0 with a 1.29 ERA and one saves in four games. He was promoted to the Pioneer League's Billings Mustangs at the beginning of July. While with the Mustangs Smith went 4-1 with a 5.33 ERA and one save in 14 relief appearances. He did not allow an earned run in nine of his 14 appearances.
Despite not giving up a run in five relief appearances in the California League in 2011 with the Bakersfield Blaze, the Reds released Smith on July 11, 2011.
Smith pitched one more season of baseball in 2012 with the Edinburg Roadrunners in the North American Baseball League. He went 3-7 with a 5.62 ERA in 21 games (13 starts). In 75.1 innings pitched he walked 28 and struck out 53 while opponents hit .283 against him. That was his last year of professional baseball before this season.
The Saints had a roster spot open when outfielder Max Murphy had his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the day. In order to make room for both players the Saints placed catcher Caden Skinner on the inactive list retroactive to July 7.
The Saints roster now stands at 22 one shy of the league maximum, 11 pitchers and 11 position players.
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