October 19, 2012
Bush League: The Power of Bauer
The “Bush League” series kicked off last week with a review of the top two picks of the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole and Danny Hultzen. This week's edition continues down that historic '11 draft board with a close look at Trevor Bauer, the second UCLA Bruin chosen among those first three picks and the first player from the arm-laden first round to crack the majors.
From the standpoint of a pitching addict, Bauer is one of the more intriguing prospects to come around in quite a while. His appreciation for biomechanics, his commitment to conditioning and physical preparation, and his cerebral approach to his craft are rare qualities to find in a 21-year-old hurler. One need only glance at Bauer's Twitter feed to understand that this is a unique mind on the mound, one whose scientific approach to the game raises the roof of his potential. However, such attention to detail can also be the undoing of a pitcher who can't get out of his own head, placing him at risk of becoming his own worst enemy on the mound.
Bauer went through stretches of dominance and ineffectiveness alike this season, running up high pitch counts in Reno and Arizona, though such environments are hardly conducive to quick innings. Triple-A Reno features a notoriously brutal park for pitchers, and road assignments in Tucson and Colorado Springs can wreak havoc on a pitcher's stat-line, providing the context that underscores the relative brilliance behind Bauer's Triple-A run prevention. His K rate was excellent in his first year of pro ball, but walks were an issue, as his volatile delivery is exceptionally difficult to coordinate consistently. He showed signs of improvement in his last three starts of the minor-league season, posting just four walks against 26 strikeouts across 22 innings of work. The sudden rush of command was fleeting, and though Bauer put his team in a position to win each of the three playoff games he started, the 17 walks he allowed in 16 1/3 postseason innings are indicative of his battles with finding a release point.
Bauer started the final game of the minor-league season when he toed the rubber for the Reno Aces in the Triple-A championship against Pawtucket on September 18th. The young right-hander would lead his teammates to a convincing 10-3 victory, though his continued problems with pitch command would lead to an early exit that left Bauer just a single out shy of recording the official W. He gave up a pair of earned runs during his four-plus innings of work, but a season-high seven walks contributed to a pitch count that cracked the century mark before he could close out the fifth.
Bauer was never in danger of earning the L, cruising through the first couple frames while his teammates repeatedly plated runs. The Aces held an eight-run advantage by the fourth inning, when the PawSox coaxed their first run via a bases-loaded walk, Bauer's third free pass of the inning. Bauer battled his timing for most of the outing, throwing just 49 strikes out of his 101 pitches, and his delivery unraveled at times in the middle innings.