Prospect of the Day: Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks have promoted phenom Trevor Bauer to the major leagues, and he'll make his major league debut today against the Atlanta Braves. Just over a year ago, he was the third-overall pick in the baseball draft. Can he dominate major league hitters the same way he dominated college and minor league competition?
Trevor Bauer has always marched to the music of his own percussionist. He graduated high school early, enrolled at UCLA in 2009 and immediately emerged as an outstanding college pitcher, going 9-3, 2.99 in 105 innings with a 92/27 K/BB. He was even more dominating as a sophomore, going 12-3, 3.02 with a 165/41 K/BB in 131 innings, then turned things up several more notches as a junior in 2011, going 13-2, 1.25 with a 203/36 K/BB in 137 innings, allowing a mere 73 hits. His college stats were ridiculously impressive, and he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best player in college baseball last year.
Drafted third overall and signed for $3,400,000 (with a major league contract worth an additional $4,450,000), Bauer posted a 3.00 ERA in three California League starts last summer, fanning 17 in nine innings, but got knocked around just a bit in Double-A, with a 7.56 ERA in four starts, although he posted a 26/8 K/BB in 17 innings. He pitched great in the post-season for Mobile, then returned there this spring and went 7-1, 1.68 in eight starts, with a 60/26 K/BB in 48 innings. Promoted to Triple-A Reno, he went 4-0, 2.82 in eight starts with a 56/22 K/BB in 45 innings. Keep in mind that is in the Pacific Coast League, no easy environment.
Overall, in 23 minor league starts, Bauer has gone 12-3, 3.03 with a 159/60 K/BB in 119 innings, with 102 hits and eight homers allowed. His K/IP ratio is simply excellent.
Bauer is a 6-1, 185 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born January 17, 1991. Although not physically large, he is an excellent athlete who is strongly devoted to intense physical (and mental) conditioning, including an extensive long-toss program and "pitch tunneling." Highly intelligent, he takes his profession very seriously and isn't afraid to try something new or unusual. Thus far, he's held up under heavy workloads without trouble.
He gets his fastball up to 98 MPH on his best days and works at 94-95. Although occasionally straight, the fastball is rated a plus pitch and he's not afraid to throw it high in the strike zone. The pitch is made stronger due to the contrast with his outstanding curveball. He also has a good slider, and also works in an impressive changeup and a splitter.
Bauer's biggest weakness is spotty control and his walk rate is rather high, but he is adept at bearing down in critical situations. Some scouts believe that his tendency to work high in the zone will result in problems on days when his command is off, leading to big innings and some bad games. Indeed, he's had a few rough outings in pro ball. But Bauer has also had more than his share of completely dominant outings, and his tremendous K/IP ratio augers well for his future.
Bauer tinkers constantly, looking for an edge, and some scouts think he tinkers too much. I think there are some genuinely understandable concerns about his command and long-term durability, but I like the way Bauer challenges orthodoxy. He is often compared to Tim Lincecum as a future number one starter/rotation anchor, and there are certainly similarities in style, stuff, and size. Keep in mind that Lincecum took a bit of time to adjust to the majors, and the same will likely be true of Bauer