Trevor Bauer in the Running for Fifth Spot
After the disappointment of the 2013 season, many fans soured on Trevor Bauer and his prospects as the next great pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. Admittedly, Bauer was about as bad as bad could be. Over the course of four big league starts spanning 17 innings, he posted an abysmal 5.29 ERA, 1.82 WHIP. and 8.5 walks per nine innings. Poor mechanics combined with even worse control has Bauer looking like Nuke LaLoosh before Crash Davis straightened him out.
Now reports are circulating that Trevor Bauer looks like Trevor Bauer again. If that’s the case and Bauer has regained the form that made him one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball, then the Indians may be in better shape than we think heading into the 2014 season.
As it stands right now, the Indians are looking at a rotation consisting of Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, and Corey Kluber in some order. The fifth and final spot remains the mystery. After the departure of Scott Kazmir to the Oakland A’s and Ubaldo Jimenez all but gone, the most likely contenders to fill that vacant spot are Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, Shaun Marcum, and the aforementioned Trevor Bauer. Each has their well documented issues, but it is still Bauer who remains the best option with the most potential upside.
What we have to remember about Bauer is that in terms of his age as a prospect, he is still very young. At the tender age of 22-years-old (he will be 23 in 2014), Bauer has already made it to the Triple A and Big League levels. While Bauer is much more equipped to handle this transition thanks to his time spent at a top-level college program, it still takes time to develop the tools necessary to succeed at the Major League level. Combine this adjustment period with the necessity for Bauer to adjust his delivery and we should have expected this would take time.
It’s easy to look at other young pitchers who have dominated at the Major League level at a young age. Stephen Strasburg, Michael Wacha, and Jose Fernandez are some of the most recent examples of this. In the cases of Strasburg and Fernandez, they are physical freaks of nature. As for Wacha, no one expected him to do the types of things he was doing. None of these can be considered the norm. In most normal situations, it takes time.
Trevor Bauer has come nowhere near close enough to have things figured out. In total, he has pitched 33.1 innings in the big leagues split between the Indians and the Diamondbacks. In terms of small sample sizes, that is microscopic. Baseball is all about repetition. Facing batters multiple times, experiencing situations, learning umpires and their strike zones. That cannot be accomplished in 33.1 innings of work. It will take time. Compound that with Bauer attempting to retool his delivery on the fly in order to save his legs and it’s easy to see why he struggled.
Now, with reports out of the Indians camp saying that Trevor Bauer is throwing the best he has thrown in years and looks like the prospect that was drafted out of UCLA, we should all feel encouraged. While he struggled mightily with his command, no one ever doubted the ferocity of his stuff, it was all just a matter of getting it back under control. In terms of issues, straightening out control problems are probably one of the easiest to remedy.
What we must also consider is that Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway already has one enormous feather in his cap. After all, it was his tutelage throughout the 2013 season that enabled Ubaldo Jimenez to experience such a dramatic turnaround. With Callaway’s help, Jimenez went from a 17 loss season with a 5.40 ERA to a 13 win season with a 3.30 ERA and a completely dominant second half. In fact, he was so good that Jimenez probably earned himself a massive payday.
Why couldn’t Callaway help Bauer experience the same type of dramatic turn around. As a matter of fact, why couldn’t Callaway also do the same for Carrasco as well? The bottom line is that Bauer has the tools and the people around him to be successful. It’s just a matter of being able to put it all together, something that should happen over time. Trevor Bauer is too good and too talented to not figure things out eventually. He just needs time.
With that said, don’t be surprised to see Trevor Bauer as the fifth starter in the Indians rotation come opening day. His potential combined with his arsenal of pitches makes him the best possible option currently on the roster. So long as he does not experience a set back healthwise or implode during Spring Training, the stage is set for Trevor Bauer to have a breakout season in 2014.