Jake Bauers has been somewhat of an enigma to start his career. Here’s a kid that has one of the prettiest swings in Double-A, yet thus far, he has profiled much more as a James Loney than a Will Clark. This season, however, Bauers seems to be finding some of that power.
Bauers was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. He would become one of the many pieces moved in the Wil Myers trade and has hit pretty well in the Rays system ever since. The 6-foot-1, 195 pound left-handed hitter has advanced through the system rather easily, being one of the youngest players in the league at every level in which he’s played while racking up All-Star honors at every stop.
The big issue with Bauers has been a lack of power to fit his first base profile thus far in his career. Last season, he began to find a little bit of it. He had a successful run in High-A Charlotte slashing .267/.357/.433, adding in 14 doubles and six home runs. He showed off his advanced plate discipline striking out just 33 times (13.3-percent) and walking 29 (11.6-percent) in 246 plate appearances.
He struggled a bit more at the plate in his first go in Montgomery, uncharacteristically striking out 41 times and walking 21 in 285 plate appearances, his worst walk rate since his 2013 debut season. He added 18 more doubles to his total, as well as five home runs, establishing new career highs for a season with 32 doubles and 11 home runs combined over both levels. He certainly displayed improved gap power, while showing some over the fence pop as well.
Bauers, who lacks speed, has played a solid first base for most of his career. This past fall in the desert, Bauers added the outfield to his resume, raising his stock as a prospect who could now play in both the outfield and first base. Once again the youngest player amongst his fellow prospects, Bauers made a good showing in the 2015 Arizona Fall League, adding to an all around solid 2015.
2016 has been even better for Bauers and it seems like his power stroke may be coming along even more. Heading into Monday’s action, Bauers second stint in Double-A has been a success as he is hitting .288, while matching his career best on base percentage at .376. He already has 10 home runs, just one off his career high, to go along with 16 doubles. He looks like himself at the plate again, striking out just 55 times while walking 44 times — a career high 12.3-percent — in 357 plate appearances. He’s also played 60 of his 82 games in right field, and rather well at that. He’s had seven assists while committing only four errors in what is essentially his full-season debut in the outfield.
So, what could we expect from Bauers? Right now, he’s the type of guy like Loney who doesn’t possess the bat quite necessary of his position, but 10 or 12 years from now, he is still good enough to have a job in the bigs. He is also just 20-years old, and once again amongst the youngest at his level. Seeing his power improve gradually each year, it’s not out of the question that he could become a Nick Swisher -esque 20-plus home run guy, who draws a nice amount of walks and plays the outfield and first base well.
It will certainly be exciting to see how the rest of his season plays out for the young left-handed hitter. Jake Goebbert isn’t wowing anyone with his numbers in Durham and there isn’t a true right fielder on their roster. Another hot week, and Bauers may make yet another jump before the season is complete.