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Thoughts on Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jake Bauers

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today I posted an article about Pittsburgh Pirates first base prospect Josh Bell, noting a comparison a very talented baseball friend of mine made with Tampa Bay Rays first base prospect Jake Bauers. Both Bauers and Bell are first basemen who entered 2016 not having fully tapped their raw power, but my friend felt Bauers had a better chance to tap into his power than Bell does.

Here is how I saw things before spring training:

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Jake Bauers, 1B-OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-1 WT: 195 DOB: October 6, 1995

2015: Grade B-

Acquired from the Padres in the Wil Myers trade, Jake Bauers has one of the prettiest swings around, smooth as silk, and combines that with very impressive strike zone judgment. He’s a strong guy and can crush in batting practice but his raw power doesn’t translate into games as often as desired for a first baseman. Some observers believe that will improve as he matures: he’s only 20 and has held his own against older competition. Others believe that what you see is what you get and there won’t be a big home run burst without major (and perhaps unwise) changes to his swing. He is a steady defender at first base and played outfield in the Arizona Fall League without embarrassing himself. James Loney is an obvious comp; he’s also drawn comparisons with Casey Kotchman, for good and bad. Swing mechanics are not my area of expertise but my gut feeling about his future power development is in "meh" territory. He’s a good prospect and you have to like his youth but I want to see more before calling him an elite hitter. Grade B-.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

Through 13 games with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits in the Southern League, Bauers is hitting .260/.351/.540 with five doubles, three homers, seven walks, and 11 strikeouts in 50 at-bats. That gives him a wRC+ of 167, very good indeed.

Of particular note is a large spike in Isolated Power: Bauers is up to .280 ISO, which would be the best mark of his career by far. Of course, it is so early in the season that all of his numbers could change very quickly for the worse, or for the better. It is too soon to draw conclusions, but the early data is certainly in Bauers' favor.

Here's some nice video from Christopher Blessing of Baseball HQ:


People who like Bauers, and there are a lot of them, point to his youth and athleticism as reasons for optimism that he will tap the power.  I must admit to being something of a Bauers power skeptic over the winter and the book grade reflects this, seeing him as more along the lines of being a solid prospect rather than an excellent one. In retrospect, however, i think the Grade B- was a notch too low.

My current thinking is that Bauers and Bell should be closer together grade-wise; I'd give them both Grade Bs at this point.

Where do you stand on Bauers' power?