Wishful Thinking: Arizona Should Call Up Trevor Bauer

With Wade Miley up to take the injured Jason Marquis’ spot in the starting rotation — and veterans Zach Duke and Micah Owings in the bullpen — the Diamondbacks should move Trevor Bauer to the major leagues. A bit of wishful thinking? Sure. But Arizona needs to roll the dice on this 20-year-old.

Let’s pretend, for a second, that Arizona isn’t satisfied with Miley as its fifth option (perhaps he has a bad start to open up, or maybe he gets injured). The Diamondbacks could then move Duke or Owings into the rotation — options that have failed on multiple levels already — or the team could bring up another minor-leaguer from Reno.

Or they could call up the most major-league ready prospect from the 2011 MLB draft.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Take Bauer’s 25 strikeouts in his first 14 professional innings — with six coming in his first five innings at double-A — as proof of his nascent dominance. Take his 1.25 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 136 college innings as proof that what we’re seeing now isn’t some small-sample-size fluke. Sure, we all know minor league and college numbers don’t always translate to the majors. So it is in situations like this that scouting data is most valuable. And Keith Law is one of the best there is. This is from his draft report:

Bauer’s fastball-curveball combination is already a big league-caliber arsenal, and he’s shown he can get deep into games with regularity despite the lack of prototypical physicality. His heavy college workload — topping 130 pitches in the majority of his starts this spring — could impact whether he helps the Arizona Diamondbacks this season or what role in which that would come. He’s an upgrade to either unit, however, and the club is well within reach of the National League West lead.

Of course, this story is somewhat dated, as the Diamondbacks now hold a 3.5 game in the National League West — and despite a mere 34% chance at the division from Baseball Prospectus’s odds — the gaggle of recent injuries the Giants sustained now suggests that Arizona holds the inside track.

Arizona isn’t a team without weaknesses, and the back of the rotation swiftly became one after Marquis’ leg injury this week. Joe Saunders has stretch experience and a 3.77 ERA, but his 4.67 FIP suggests he could collapse at any moment. Miley is just as unproven as Bauer but without the pedigree. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Bauer is the fourth-most-talented starting pitcher in Arizona’s organization. If I’m running a team in a playoff race, I’d want the most talented team on the field. For Arizona, that means Bauer should be in the starting rotation.

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22 Responses to “Wishful Thinking: Arizona Should Call Up Trevor Bauer”

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  1. YP says:

    why doesn’t Owings go back to the rotation? He’d been pitching really well.

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  2. fantasystud1305 says:

    Do it!

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  3. baty says:

    What about the fact that Trevor carried a huge workload this NCAA season?

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    • Dustin says:

      If the Diamondbacks thought that workload at UCLA was an issue they would have shut him down after signing him.

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      • baty says:

        That’s not the issue because if he gets shut down at the end of the MILB season, his workload is still minimized. Depending on how he’s used, If he becomes part of the starting rotation plan during a playoff run, that has the potential of extending his season into October. If they make the playoffs? then what… I’m sure the Diamondbacks would use him wisely, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth having to make these compensations.

        And it’s not just about injury concerns, It’s about whether or not he can manage being effective enough at the MLB level as he moves into a workload territory his body is not used to. He may be just fine, but he could hit the wall.

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      • AK707 says:

        Baty, those are things that you start worrying about once you actually make the playoffs. Who says that they can’t shut him down for the playoffs if the workload starts to affect his performance? And if they do make the playoffs, then the injury risk is worth the cost.

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      • Drakos says:

        According to Kevin Goldstein’s article on ESPN.com the Diamondbacks planned on having him throw 30 innings after signing him. He’s already thrown 14.

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      • baty says:

        I understand that the Diamondbacks would most likely be wise about his handling as I’ve already stated…

        I have nothing against giving him a test, but to say that he should be put into the rotation implies much more. It’s an over simplification. There have been NCAA (full season contributing) starting pitchers that have lent REASONABLE value to a MLB bullpen the year they are drafted, sure, but making them a part of the starting rotation? I can’t think of any recent pitcher that’s made the successful transition of the top of my head… I would have liked to hear more about that, since I think it’s a pretty important part of the “wishful thinking argument”.

        You need to look into the fact that an occurrence like this is an extreme rarity and would likely be viewed as controversial from an anything-outside-of-talent perspective.

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      • baty says:

        Sorry the previous comment should have been @ AK707

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      • mb says:

        what about mike leake?

        won his first 8 starts w/o pitching one minor league inning

        bauer has already shown dominance in the minors

        why wouldnt he be dominant in the “hitting deprived” nl west?

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      • baty says:

        Didn’t Mike Leake make his first MLB appearance the season after he was drafted?

        I’m talking about a pitcher that gets drafted in June and manages to become a part of the MLB rotation that same summer.

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  4. mlstarr says:

    I’m pretty sure Bauer actually struck out 8 in his first five innings of Double-A.

    If they have no problem letting him throw foul pole to foul pole, I’d imagine they’re open to letting him throw in the majors although probably very limited innings and only if they really think he’s ready. As a Dbacks fan, I’d love it.

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  5. Chops says:

    Arizona is only up 2.5 now.

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  6. CircleChange11 says:

    Since becoming a full-time starting pitcher, Joe Saunders’ ERA has been below his FIP. I doubt he’s ready for a collapse. The problem is that he’s Joe Saunders, a below league average pitcher.

    If they have no problem letting him throw foul pole to foul pole, I’d imagine they’re open to letting him throw in the majors although probably very limited innings and only if they really think he’s ready.

    One thing has little to do with the other.

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  7. TK says:

    Why not wait 2 weeks until rosters expand? Why burn a service time year for 3 starts? Bring him up in sept., then come up with some reason to leave him off 2012 opening day roster and he’ll be under team control through 2018 instead of 2017.

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    • Ryan says:

      Agreed. It would be foolish to give him a postseason start anyway. They’re going to face the Phillies and lose in 3 or 4 games. Why put that on a guy fresh out of college. The need for a 4th or 5th starter in the postseason is much less.

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  8. Marc says:

    “with six coming in his first five innings at double-A”

    Actually 8 lol

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  9. Dreamin says:

    They won’t move him up within the next two weeks, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t up in September, frankly, and he’ll be rotation ready next year. Although if they really are feeling his workload starting to strain him, they might throw him in a David Price inspired type bullpen role, though more as a high leverage situational guy instead of locking down the end of the game since Hernandez and Putz have been doing quite nicely. Since they’ve already fast-tracked him to AA after roflstomping hi A and his first AA start didn’t show any signs of slowing him down, I can’t say it seems their too worried about his arm. Moving him to AAA in the LOLPCL would do nothing positive for him.

    Uunless they really want to hold him back to get as much service time with him in parallel with Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker, his time in the minors isn’t doing a whole lot for him.

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  10. Bobby says:

    People that are concerned about this kid’s workload, need to read his article in SI from last week. One of the reasons this kid is so good and prevents himself from being injured, is because of the heavy workload he gives himself. He does long-tosses that other pitchers don’t do, and works himself out in completely different ways. This kid is a pitching genius, and if anyone tries to prevent his workload or change what he does, they’re only either going to hurt him physically or hurt his performance. I agree; call him up!

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    • baty says:

      Totally understandable. I am a believer in allowing pitchers to “take on more” in order to get stronger. I don’t think it’s fair to generally restrict every pitcher based on a loose formula. All I’m saying, is that there’s a huge difference between, NCAA, A, A+, AA, and MLB pitching work loads, and while he may have tremendous work ethic, he will still be venturing into unchartered territory. At this point of the season, when you advance through stages and continue with relatively similar success, yes, it’s worth taking a look at the next level…

      When you’re a pitcher that encounters problems that are unfamiliar, that’s when you start improvising during game situations and experiencing a way of working that is more unnatural than what you’re used to. Maybe he is a genius, but he’s going to allow more fly balls than usual, allow more walks than usual, etc… He will ultimately experience innings here and there that carry a different workload and fatigue than what he’s used to. That’s worth acknowledgement because it’s that kind of fatigue, and the form of adjustment, that put’s an inexperienced pitcher in odd territory.

      You can bring him up, that’s fine, but most likely, he would only tack on a couple starts anyway, so how much will that really help the Diamondback’s chances? So, It’s really only a matter of people wanting to see what he can do at the MLB level. The story won’t be about going to arguably the 4th best starting pitcher in the organization to increase leverage during a playoff run.

      Just looking at the last 15 years of first round NCAA starting pitcher signees, it’s an extremely rare case. Trevor is unique because he was a top draft pick that signed a bit sooner than most with his talent level, thereby giving him a quicker start to the season.

      Here’s a selection of NCAA 1st round drafted pitchers each year dating back to 1997 that made an immediate transition into continuing the season’s “substantial work load”. The second list is incomplete and probably has gaps, because I didn’t have time to go beyond the first round of each year’s amateur draft, but oh well, I was curious.

      Inning workloads for starting pitchers that made organizational debuts the same summer they were drafted, including a MLB debut:
      *2011 Trevor Bauer: 150.2 (NCAA, A+, AA, MLB rotation?)
      2006 Andrew Miller: 138.2IP (NCAA, A+, MLB bullpen)
      2007 Ross Detwiler: 123.1IP (NCAA, RK, A+, MLB bullpen)
      2010 Chris Sale: 136.2IP (NCAA, A+, AAA, MLB bullpen)

      Inning workloads for starting pitchers that made organizational debuts the same summer they were drafted without a MLB debut:
      2005 Matt Garza: 194IP (NCAA, RK, A)
      2005 Garret Olson: 190.1IP (NCAA, A_, A+)
      2005 Cesar Ramos: 185.1IP (NCAA, A-, A)
      2005 Cesar Carrilo: 182IP (NCAA, A+, AA)
      2007 Clayton Mortensen: 180IP (NCAA, A-, A)
      2006 Greg Reynolds: 176.1 IP (NCAA, A+)
      2007 Cory Luebke: 176.1IP (NCAA, A-, A, A+)
      2005 Lance Broadway: 172IP (NCAA, A+)
      2004 Glen Perkins: 171.2IP (NCAA, RK, A)
      2005 Ricky Romero: 166.2IP (NCAA, A-, A+)
      2002 Dan Meyer: 162.2IP (NCAA, RK)
      2004 JP Howell: 161.1IP (NCAA, RK)
      2002 Joe Saunders: 160 IP (NCAA, RK, A)
      *2011 Trevor Bauer: 150.2 (NCAA, A+, AA)
      2007 Aaron Poreda: 146IP (NCAA, RK)
      2009 Mike Minor: 124.2IP (NCAA, A)

      It seems that organizations have sometimes allowed pitchers to log higher innings totals through the lower levels without great concern, but it is still more of a rare occurrence these past several years, especially within the upper levels. I don’t think I saw a single 1st round drafted NCAA pitcher the last 15 years that logged a game start at the MLB level the same summer they were drafted.

      Maybe you can assume that a few players such as Mark Prior, Strasburg, Verlander, Price, etc… might have been good enough to start games at the MLB level the same summer they were drafted if by chance they had signed a contract earlier in the process… I’m sure there might be a few players that were being blocked by chance at the upper levels, thereby not being able to advance as quickly… Maybe 20-30 years ago, these lists would look very different…

      I know in the past, much of this has to do with being able to sign the draft pick early enough to allow the possibility of rapid advancement, but I do wonder how any of the most talented pitchers would have been handled if in the same situation that Trevor is in now. My point is that, either way… right or wrong… good or bad… Trevor would still be a dramatic exception to the norm of what anyone has experience with when it comes to modern workload and ability.

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  11. Robert Odden says:

    In regards to Bauer’s recent promotion to Triple A, I saw an article saying they thought that facing batters with better place disciple (at Triple A) might help improve Bauer’s walk rate. I can’t remember where I saw it as it was late last night but it struck me as counter intuitive so I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on the logic behind that train of thought.

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