Every Monday I will be taking an in-depth look at a player who could potentially get called up to the Majors this year, and could be useful to fantasy owners as a result. In some cases, it could a top prospect (like today's), and in other cases it could be a player in the minors who would benefit from an opportunity in the bigs, especially if an injury or trade occurs. You can take a look at the previous reports below:
Next up is one of the many pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks system, and one that is probably the most unique of the bunch, Trevor Bauer.
Age at End of 2012 Season: 21
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Used: 2 (2011, 2012)
Trevor Bauer was drafted out of UCLA with the 3rd pick in last season's draft, and signed surprisingly early for a top 5 draft pick. Bauer signed in late July, with a $3.4 million bonus and a Major League contract received from the Diamondbacks. As a result of this, Bauer was able to make 7 starts between High-A and AA. The final numbers don't reflect how well he pitched, as he gave up 10 earned runs in his last start of the year in just 1 2/3 innings pitched. If you take that start out, he threw 24 innings with a 2.63 ERA to go along with nearly 15 K per 9 innings.
Bauer is viewed with a lot of curiosity based on his training regimen and his use of extreme long-toss (sometimes upwards of 400 feet). It did not necessarily ease some organizations' concerns given the high volume workload he threw his final season in college (130+ IP in each of his last two seasons), but the upside of nearly 14 strikeouts per 9 innings clearly didn't dissuade the Diamondbacks.
What's Stopping Him From Being in the Majors Right Now?
For Bauer, it seems like only two things are really stopping him right now.
1) His Service Clock
If the Diamondbacks can keep him down until sometime in June, they would avoid him earning a full season of service time this year AND would likely avoid him reaching Super-2 Status in a couple of years.
2) Josh Collmenter and Joe Saunders
Either of the two pitchers mentioned would be the most likely candidates to fall out of the rotation should the team decide that Bauer is ready to go. Not exactly a murderer's row of a pair of pitchers, but as of right now there isn't a huge need to rush Bauer to take one of their spots.
What Could He Do When He Gets to the Majors?
There are some concerns that Bauer will have a difficult time handling the kind of workload related to being a starting pitcher in the Majors, but for me I think he will be very likely to show success in the bigs quickly. His results thus far in AA this season are slightly concerning, at least with regard to the walk rate (7 walks in 10 IP), but the strikeout rate has not dropped at all so far (18 K). It's a small sample to be sure. Once he is in the bigs, I could see him posting a strikeout rate north of 1 per inning, but with a potentially damaging WHIP (1.30+) until he shows an improvement on the walk rate. Long-term I think he has the potential to be a high value starting pitcher, likely a top 20 starting pitcher in many seasons.
When Does He Seem Likely to Get There?
I would be pretty surprised if Bauer wasn't in the Majors by mid-June. It seems pretty unlikely to me that the Diamondbacks would expose him to AAA due to their home park being in a hitters' paradise in Reno. Given the dominant strikeout numbers he has posted so far this season, I think he'll show very quickly that he can pitch at the Major League level, and potentially be dominant there.