- Ben Hall
Missouri State's Drake Baldwin has emerged as one of the top catchers in the 2022 MLB Draft
Updated: Jun 25, 2022
Missouri State junior catcher Drake Baldwin will likely be drafted somewhere in the first five rounds when the MLB Draft comes around on later in July. From June 14-20, the MLB hosted a combine for the top draft picks to showcase and talk with MLB teams. The event was held at Petco Park in San Diego, California. He attended the MLB Combine last week and was able to talk with numerous MLB scouts.
"At the combine, I decided to just do interviews, so I got to meet with a lot of the higher ups in 13 of the organizations," Baldwin said. "The MLB did a great job at hooking us up with everything we needed including a nice hotel, and amazing food whenever we wanted it. I think the draft combine was one of my favorite sports experiences of my life."
Baldwin got to play for head coach Keith Guttin, who has been the coach of the Bears since 1983. Guttin has an overall record of 1,339–860 and in his career with the Bears has led them to 12 NCAA Tournament appearances. His 1,339 wins puts him 11th in most career victories among active Division I coaches. He's coached a ton of MLB players including most recently Luke Voit, Matt Hall, Jake Burger, and Dylan Coleman.
"I loved playing for coach Guttin," Baldwin said when asked what it was like playing for head coach Keith Guttin. "He created an extremely good culture throughout our program, allowing our assistant coaches to work closer with us."
At Missouri State, Baldwin has had a great career. Since his freshman year, Baldwin has consistently played. While his freshman season was cut early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baldwin came on strong for his sophomore season. In 2021, Baldwin hit .291 with 4 home runs and 23 runs batted in. He was named Second Team All-MVC.
Following a good sophomore season, people expected Drake Baldwin to take a step forward, but not as big a step as he did. In 2022, Baldwin hit .341 with 19 home runs and 70 runs batted in. He was once again named Second Team All-MVC. He was also named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division I South All-Region First Team.
"I think my biggest change from last year to this year was a change of approach," Baldwin said when asked about his big improvements from 2021 to 2022. "Going from more of an opposite field approach to an approach where I wanted to lift the ball and hit pull side home runs. Being able to use my bat to ball skills that I had developed the past couple years and pairing that with hitting for power made me a much more dangerous hitter. I was able to fight with two strikes but when I got ahead in counts, I was able to do damage."
Missouri State got hot in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed and were the last team to make it. After losing their first game of the tournament, the Bears won five straight games, including two wins over the No. 1 seed Southern Illinois, and won the tournament. This landed them their first NCAA Tournament birth since 2018.
The Bears were selected to be the No. 4 seed in the Stillwater regional. In their opening game against Oklahoma State, they fell 10-5, but they had a major bounce back on the following day in the elimination round. Trailing 7-3 heading into the top of the 9th, the Bears scored five runs giving them an 8-7 lead and shut it out in the bottom of the 9th giving them the win. On the following day, they played what was one of the most exciting games of the entire NCAA Baseball Tournament. Through three innings, the Bears were winning 12-0 and Baldwin had five of those runs batted in. Oklahoma State stormed back over the next few innings and were able to take a 17-15 lead heading into the 8th. The Cowboys busted the game open in the top of the 8th where they scored five runs and followed that up with 7 runs in the 9th. Their 29-15 victory eliminated the Bears. In this game, Baldwin went 3-5 with two home runs, one double, six runs batted in, and three runs.
"Playing in my first NCAA tournament was awesome," Baldwin said. "From being an almost .500 team to winning our conference tournament and than winning a game in the regional is what it is all about. First game against Oklahoma State was sold out with everyone extremely locked in on every pitch. Looking back on it now, I realized that not many people got to experience what our team did. During the moment, we stuck with our same routines and tried to just embrace it all. It was easy to do with the teammates I had and how much fun it was to play with all of them."
Next for Baldwin will be the 2022 MLB Draft. The MLB Draft will take place July 17 and last until July 19. Baldwin still has the ability to return to colleges as he has remaining college eligibility. However, there is a good chance he goes somewhere in the top five rounds as he's truly one of the best hitting catchers in the MLB Draft. There are a ton of teams in the MLB who would love to have Baldwin in their farm system and see what he could give them in the next few years.