The majority of Indians fans and the media as a whole are somewhat overlooking Trevor Bauer's candidacy for the Cleveland starting rotation. It seems to me as if we've forgotten him a little bit, that we are leaving him off our "who I'd like to see in the 2014 rotation" lists (Jason and Ryan have included Bauer as a candidate in conversations here and here, but he's received little support). Trevor is always in the mix, but most of the time I see Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco mentioned ahead of Bauer, while I think Bauer has more talent. He could yet prove to be a key contributor to the Indians in 2014.
I hear what you're saying: "Bauer was terrible last year. Why should we consider him as a potential starter next year?" And yes, there is certainly some merit to that. Bauer was pretty bad last year and certainly failed to live up to our expectations after he arrived from Arizona. In his defense, they were rather high expectations for a young rookie, but then you look at a guy like Danny Salazar, who didn't let anything phase him last season, and you start to wonder what could have been if Bauer had just pitched a little better.
In the limited MLB time he saw, Bauer didn't make a great first impression on Tribe fans. In 17 innings spread over 4 starts, Bauer surrendered 15 hits and 10 earned runs, for a 5.29 ERA. It gets worse: in those 17 brief innings, he allowed 16 walks, an unsightly 8.47 BB/9. I'll never forget his Indians debut on April 6. I made a special effort to stay up late here in England to witness it, and couldn't believe my eyes: 4 straight walks to start the bottom of the first, putting the Indians in an early 1-0 hole (the Tribe lost 6-0 that day). Bauer was taken out after 5 innings, finishing with 7 walks. It summed up his entire 2013, as he never really had complete control of his pitches. He struggled with his control at Triple-A Columbus as well, finishing the year with a 5.41 BB/9 and a 4.15 ERA. Hardly setting the world alight.
I haven't exactly sold you on Bauer, have I? Every player goes through a difficult year or two in their career though, when they disappoint. Bauer will be no different. If baseball history has taught us anything, you cannot count a guy out based on their last year of work (just look at Scott Kazmir). Contrary to how he performed in 2013, I still believe that Bauer has what it takes to contend for that fifth spot in the rotation.
Here's what I want to see out of Bauer in 2014:
1) Pitch lights out in Spring Training. I have a feeling the fifth spot in the rotation won't be set in concrete before camp begins, so Bauer should have a chance to impress the staff and stake a claim for that spot in the rotation. Trevor will need to make the most of the limited innings afforded to him during the spring.
2) Cut down on the walks. Bauer has never been the most accurate pitcher and has always struggled somewhat with his control. However, to gain the trust of the manager and the rest of the staff, Bauer will need to show an improvement in his accuracy. Perhaps a few coaching sessions with pitching guru Mickey Callaway this winter would help.
3) Consider a change of approach. Bauer is notoriously selective and stubborn about his pre-game workouts. He claims to know his body and his arm best and has a set routine to prepare himself before games. Fair enough I say. But maybe a few alterations to these routines could benefit him, unlock something inside him to help take him to the next level of development. Again, maybe some significant time with Mickey Callaway would work wonders.
It's nearly been a year to the day since it was announced that Bauer was joining us from the Diamondbacks in the three-team trade involving Shin-Soo Choo and Drew Stubbs, among others. It wasn't so long ago Indians fans were excited about snagging the number 3 pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. All that potential and talent that saw him selected so high hasn't completely disappeared. The raw ability is still there, it just needs some refining, and that will only get better as Bauer gets older. Remember, he's still 22, pretty young for a major league pitcher. It's far too early to give up on him.
It's not rocket science really. Bauer knows more than anybody that he needs to pitch better next year. He's the only person standing between himself and that fifth spot in the rotation.
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