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Baxendale paying off early for Miracle05/17/2013 11:43 PM ET
By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com
Every year, once you get past a team's first couple of high-profile selections in the Draft, there's a sense that the dozens of picks who follow are lottery tickets with varying odds.
Obviously, there's a difference to being drafted in the 10th round and, say, the 42nd. But with few exceptions, there are players with elite pedigrees taken early on, and there's everyone else who comes off the board later.
Farm systems are built, and scouts build reputations, on the fact that a number of these lower-round tickets will cash in. Early in the first stage of this career, Twins prospect D.J. Baxendale is looking like one such winner.
The 2012 10th-round pick tossed seven three-hit innings on Friday, striking out three batters and walking two, to lead Class A Advanced Fort Myers to an 8-0 whitewash of Charlotte.
Baxendale (6-0) made only 17 appearances after signing last year, pitching 18 2/3 innings between Rookie-level Elizabethton and Class A Beloit. The brief debut was still eye-opening as he notched a 0.96 ERA with 31 strikeouts against two walks.
The 22-year-old right-hander was sent to Fort Myers to begin this season, making him one of two 10th-rounders from last year to start the campaign as high as Class A Advanced. And like his debut in 2012, the early results stand out -- Baxendale leads the Florida State League in wins and with a 1.07.
"I was very shocked to be starting for Fort Myers this year. I feel very honored that the Twins thought enough of me to start in [Class A Advanced]," the University of Arkansas product said. "And I'm proud of myself for performing so far to not make the Twins' front office look stupid.
"I always demand success from myself, always feel like I should go out and pitch well enough for the team to get a victory, so, kind of in a way, I had expected to throw this well. But to actually go out and throw like I have, it probably would not have been realistic to say that I expected that in my head."
Pitching out of a low three-quarters delivery and wielding a fastball that sits between 88-90 mph to go with a curveball, slider and developing changeup, Baxendale looks like one of the diamonds in the rough to emerge from the Draft.
Part of his success derives from how rarely he allows walks. In three years as a Razorback, the Arkansas native issued 68 free passes over 252 2/3 innings while striking out 217 and registering a 2.71 career ERA in the Southeastern Conference.
In 50 1/3 innings over eight starts for the Miracle, he's tied for fifth in the FSL with 44 strikeouts against only nine walks. And his 0.77 WHIP leads the league.
"I pride myself on being able to attack the zone, throw low strikes, attack hitters. I don't like walking people at all," said Baxendale, the Twins Organizational Pitcher of the Month for April and reigning FSL Pitcher of the Week. "I'd rather throw a good pitch and let the hitter get a hit than throw four balls to a guy and feel like I'm just giving him a free pass. I stay away from them as much as I can.
"I keep a book on every hitter I face, to know what I did good, what I did bad, what I should do the next time I face him. I like to say I'm a student of the game."
Twins top prospect Miguel Sano supported Baxendale with his league-leading 11th homer, giving him 32 RBIs and a .362/.457/.681 lines through 38 games.
"He's scary. I'm very, very happy to have him on my team," Baxendale said. "To see a player like Miguel, who's so young, so talented, be able to go out every day and stay even-headed and continue to work like he does, it's pretty impressive."
Angel Morales chipped in three hits, including a pair of triples and three RBIs for Fort Myers. Kennys Vargas added a two-run homer.