From the moment Trevor Bauer‘s name was announced as the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, the pitcher with my favorite twitter handle (@BauerOutage) has been in the conversation for best pitching prospect in all of baseball. Against Chattanooga, the former UCLA ace (sorry Gerrit Cole) carved up double-A hitters at times, but struggled to command a fastball up in the zone, leading to mixed results in the stat column.
Video after the jump.
On the hill, Bauer is far from an imposing physical presence on the mound. At a listed 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, had I not been familiar with his intense pitching regimen, shock and awe would have been the reaction to Bauer being able to maintain — even improve — fastball velocity deep into the game. Having seen Dylan Bundy recently, Bauer has a similar machine-like quality on the mound in that the right-hander is extremely efficient in his baseball movements. From utilizing flexibility and core strength to generate velocity, to only needing four seconds between pitches when in a groove, Bauer certainly has no interest in wasting time or energy from the moment he toes the rubber.
In game action, Bauer played catch to the tune of a 92-95 MPH fastball. Late in the outing, a possible moment of frustration after being touched up a bit saw his velocity spike to 97-98 MPH. Having read Ben Duronio’s piece discussing Bauer’s recent Twitter conversation about the stigma of working up in the zone, seeing Bauer practice what he preached did not make me more likely to take his side in the argument. In fact, a contact in attendance went as far as to say, “Bauer will have outings where he looks like a young Kerry Wood and strikes out 15, but he’ll also be chased in the second on occasion as well. He just kind of throws the fastball up there. It also makes me wonder how he’ll fare a second time through the league”
Along with plus velocity, Bauer’s fluid delivery and ability to hide the ball allows his fastball explodes on hitters. However, the pitch also had little to no movement making his ability to command the pitch even more important. Maybe it was simply that Bauer was staked to a sizable lead by the fourth inning and chose to challenge hitters, but his command presented as inconsistent due to fastballs being over the heart of the plate too often.
In this particular outing, Bauer’s best pitch was a curveball in the upper-70s featuring 11/5 break with hard, late drop to the front of the plate. Early on, he choked the pitch and appeared to drop his elbow leading to a few “hangers”, but it profiled as a plus offering after he made adjustments. The curve will miss bats at the big league level, making many a hitter look foolish.
Bauer used a slider at 82-83 MPH as a second breaking ball. The pitch was sharp, but featured similar action to a cutter boring down and to the outer half against right-handed hitters. It’s at least an average pitch right now with room for more. Much like his fastball and curve, consistency and command will be key to continued development of the pitch, as it already has major league quality movement.
Bauer also flashed a changeup/screwball hybrid in the 86-88 MPH range which became better as the game wore on. Early in the outing, he overthrew it, causing the pitch to remain up in the zone and hittable. Later on, the pitch featured late tail on the hands of right-handed hitters, with identical arm action to his fastball. With further refinement, it profiles as yet another average to above pitch at the major league level.
After seeing Bauer, it’s obvious the stuff is there for him to become a top flight starter for Arizona in the relatively near future. One would assume that, with four quality pitches and the ability to throw them from nearly identical release points, Bauer’s nearly a finished product.
However, with his being a cerebral pitcher, the potential is there for Bauer to unlock additional fastball movement and sharpen his command, leaving additional room for growth. This is an exciting, but somewhat surprising development for me, as the discussion around Bauer always returns to the perception of his being major league ready. As with Tyler Skaggs, the restraint the Diamondbacks are showing with Bauer is commendable, as most organizations would have rushed one, or both, already. In both cases, the added patience will only help each pitcher’s long-term projection.