Trevor Bauer may be the next big fantasy pitching prospect.
Bauer's success at Double-A Mobile in the Diamondbacks system has earned him a promotion to Triple-A Reno. There is beginning to be a little talk around the Diamondbacks insiders that Bauer is due for a promotion all the way to the big league club. Most people feel his stop at Reno signals his ultimate promotion. That of course could be speculation. Only general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson know the real plan. Whatever the blueprint, the team is very high on Bauer's starting pitching potential. At Reno, Towers wants Bauer to concentrate on reducing his walks.
Bauer has had a fantastic beginning to his 2012 season in particular and his career in general. He has thrown 93 innings and has given up only 71 hits. Amazingly, Bauer has decisions in 10 of the 11 games he started this season in Double-A and Tripe-A combined, carrying a 9-1 record as of this writing. He has given up only two home runs, but if there is any reason for concern, it rests in the fact that Bauer has walked 36. Towers feels facing more mature, veteran hitters at Triple-A could actually help Bauer. His control sometimes leaves him. It could be much better, but his WHIP is still a very respectable 1.188. There is no question his starts have generated a tremendous buzz among those that watch prospects.
What do we know about Trevor Bauer? We know that Bauer has fashioned his style after the Giants' Tim Lincecum, even though Bauer is much bigger. We know that he has a full repertoire of pitches that includes a two-seam (sinking) fastball and a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a slider and a changeup. We know that he is confident using all his pitches at any count. We know that most of his pitches have some form of movement, even though the higher his velocity gets, the straighter his four-seam fastball becomes. We know that he can add and subtract velocity on his curveball.
Basically, Bauer is still learning pitch sequencing. He is discovering how to use his repertoire as he goes through a batting order the second and third times each game. That will take more time and it will become increasingly more important as the hitter's he faces get progressively better.
When I saw Bauer in spring training, he was more a thrower than pitcher. I saw him lean back and let the ball fly. Often he didn't know where it was going. It was very typical of a young pitcher trying to earn attention and be impressive for his new club. I don't fault him for taking that approach. However, as he entered his season at Mobile, his focus changed from over-throwing to become more of a pitcher. In video I have watched, it is evident Bauer is making outstanding progress.
Selected by Arizona with the third overall pick in the 2011 First Year Player Draft, Bauer has not disappointed. He is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. He isn't huge as today's pitchers go, but he is big enough. Upon signing last summer, Bauer was immediately added to the D-Backs' 40-man roster.
Bauer was in a draft class that included pitchers Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh), Danny Hultzen (Seattle), Dylan Bundy (Baltimore), Archie Bradley (Arizona), Taylor Jungmann (Milwaukee), Jose Fernandez (Miami), Jed Bradley (Milwaukee), Chris Reed (Los Angeles Dodgers), Sonny Gray (Oakland), Matt Barnes (Boston), Tyler Anderson (Colorado), Tyler Beede (Toronto), Alex Meyer (Washington), Taylor Guerrieri (Tampa), Joe Ross (San Diego), Robert Stephenson (Cincinnati), Sean Gilmartin (Atlanta), and Kevin Matthews (Texas.)
That is an amazing array of quality pitching. It may be among the best draft classes in history for pitching prospects with legitimate Major League potential. I believe the Diamondbacks got it right. Bauer was selected in the correct position. I would have reversed Hultzen and Cole, but that's just me. I think it is much tougher to find and develop a quality left-hander (Hultzen) than a quality righty (Cole).
Bauer was selected following a successful high school career at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California and a marvelous college career at UCLA. Bauer had pitched in Tempe just prior to the draft. His inconsistent outing left scouts and player personnel departments confused about his ultimate draft slot. The Diamondbacks were convinced then, as they are now, that Bauer will have a great big league career.
Prior to the draft, Bauer warned clubs that he would seek assurances the team signing him would not change his mechanics, his unorthodox delivery, pre-game routine or his overall work habits. The Diamondbacks agreed they would allow him to continue doing what had made him successful through his collegiate career. It was a commitment that not every team in baseball would have made. Here's why:
Bauer is unconventional in his pre-game ritual of "long toss." For most clubs, "long toss" consists of pitchers throwing from the right or left field sideline to a spot probably mid-way between right and center fields. It is a much longer distance than that of the pitcher's mound to home plate. The pitcher increases the distance gradually until the throwing arm is stretched and the maximum distance is realized. Long toss is designed to both loosen and strengthen the arm with the exaggerated distance.
Bauer begins his "long toss" along the left field line and gradually increases the distance of his throws. He uses the bullpen catcher to initially accept those throws. He keeps throwing and when he reaches center field, the catcher becomes a "cutoff man" as Bauer continues to lengthen the distance of his throws well beyond center field. He ultimately reaches a point beyond the normal area patrolled by the right fielder, but not all the way to the right field foul line. When his throws reach center field, the "cutoff man" returns the ball to Bauer who increases the distance to a player at the other end who is beyond the "cutoff" man. That routine continues until his exercise is complete. He throws from left field to center field to right field, the entire distance until he is satisfied he has thrown far enough for long enough. It is an amazing exercise to watch. The length of his "long toss" is usually beyond 360 feet and it has been known to reach 400 feet.
When he arrives at the mound to begin his inning, Bauer is known to do a "crow hop" step in his first warm up pitches. I have seen him throw the ball over the catcher's head to the backstop on purpose. I have no idea why he does that. It is, however, very different.
While many evaluators rate Bauer as the best prospect in the Diamondbacks' system, there are other pitchers that are gaining attention. Among them are left-handed starters Wade Miley and Pat Corbin. Miley saw time with Arizona last year and Corbin was called to the major leagues this season. He has since been returned to the minor meague system. Tyler Skaggs, a lefty starter obtained by former interim general manager Jerry Dipoto (along with Corbin, Joe Saunders and Rafael Rodriguez) for Dan Haren is a very promising future rotation starter as well. In fact, the deal Dipoto made may very well yield three very high quality left-handed starters for the 2013 club in Corbin, Skaggs and Saunders. Bauer may join Trevor Cahill as the two righties on the starting staff. If Daniel Hudson is able to fully get over his shoulder problems, the team could have yet another starter to use for themselves or deal in a trade. As a result, Miley might be used out of the bullpen in the Diamondbacks' future pitching plans.
The point? The Diamondbacks have a wealth of future pitching options. Bauer is among the best of the lot.
Bauer has a very high arm slot and he makes finding the ball coming out of his hand a bit difficult for hitters. Generally, his pitches come at the hitter very quickly as he finishes his arm action in almost a whip-like motion that has the pitch on top of the hitter in a direct manner. There are, however, times when he has trouble repeating that delivery and consistently commanding his pitches, particularly his fastball. That said, his ability to change the velocity and location of his offerings is a factor that sets him apart. He gets a great deal of "lower half" of his body in his motion, giving him strength and torque for both forms of fastballs he throws.
There are some scouts critical of Bauer's landing leg, stating it is too stiff and straight. They claim he should bend his knee to achieve more consistent control. They may have a point. However, changing his landing would ultimately distort the delivery with which he is comfortable. And remember, the Diamondbacks agreed to leave well enough alone. No messing with his mechanics.
His curveball is an outstanding secondary pitch. He uses a 12-to-6 overhand curve that really keeps hitters off stride. When he changes speeds on that pitch, the trajectory changes as well, giving him yet a totally different weapon with which to confuse hitters.
His changeup may be the last of his offerings to refine. That said, in its current state, Bauer's changeup is beyond major league average in quality and it can easily become an out pitch when hitter's are looking for a velocity of 94 mph and they get a tumbling 82-85 instead.
While we haven't seen it yet, Bauer may get hit more when he pitches at Triple-A Reno. The Pacific Coast League is a hitter's paradise. But it will be the mechanical adjustments he makes and not solely the statistical results that will dictate when Bauer is invited to join the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
From a scouting perspective, Bauer has All Star quality stuff and is a top of the rotation starter in waiting. He has enough "stuff" to compete at the major league level right now. He does need to refine his mechanics to the point of consistent command and control. If he stays healthy and soaks in the information and guidance being provided by his coaches, Bauer will be pitching in the big leagues for a long, long time. The only question remaining is when his arbitration clock will begin. I believe it will be some time this season. I really do.
*Until Justin Masterson can get left-handed hitters out he will be a very mediocre (at best) pitcher.
*I can't remember ever seeing Big Papi take so many pitches to the opposite field. His loss of weight has turned his career completely around. Where would the Red Sox be without him?
*As an Indians fan, I was worried about the White Sox at the beginning of the season. We are now seeing Adam Dunn be Adam Dunn and a new Alex Rios.
*Those who follow my work know I have been high on the Blue Jays for two years. Now we are seeing what they can be. Next year will be even better.
*Here's my concern about Doc. He never gets hurt. For him to go on the DL with any type of arm problems is major, major, major.
*Tim Lincecum's velocity is down more than two miles per hour.
*Biggest steal of the year? Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez.
*Travis Hafner is #onthedisabledlistagain.
*Aroldis Chapman - We are now seeing why the Reds paid him what they did. He is becoming what I saw when I first scouted him and gushed on these pages and on the radio segments. His arm is amazing, but he had to adjust. I also don't like the way the Reds handled his entry to our game. Now if he can stay healthy if.
*Bust of the Week: Dee Gordon. You're killing me, man.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and at MLB.com in the Voices section.