June 27, 2012
The situation: With Joe Saunders heading to the disabled list with a shoulder injury, the Arizona Diamondbacks made the highly anticipated move of calling up Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, who will make his major league debut by starting on Thursday. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, Bauer ranked second in the minor leagues with 116 strikeouts in 93 innings, to go with a 2.23 ERA.
Background: With he was part of a UCLA rotation that included eventual No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole (Pirates) last spring, Bauer was statistically the best pitcher in college baseball last year, finishing his junior year with a 1.25 ERA and a Pac-10 record 203 strikeouts in just 136 2/3 innings. Beyond his numbers, his rituals in between starts have garnered just as much attention. He is a proponent of long tossing, throwing from outfield pole to outfield pole before games, and he also works out with giant rubber bands as part of resistance training.
What he can do: Bauer can miss bats at any level with a wide assortment of offerings. Using a delivery that features an exaggerated stride and lightning-quick arm action, Bauer has a 93-95 mph fastball that can bump a bit higher at times, and he backs up the pitch with an outstanding curveball, as well as a plus slider and deceptive changeup. He also can vary the grip on his fastball to add cutting or sinking action to the pitch, and hitters never know what's coming. Because of the speed in his delivery, he can get out of sync at times, leading to problems with control and efficiency. He's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings this year, and in his eight starts for Triple-A Reno, he's averaged 101 pitches for every six innings he's thrown.
Immediate big league future: There is no debate that Bauer has star-level stuff, and he should rack up plenty of strikeouts immediately. The question is how many innings will he throw. He still has a tendency to get too cute with the depth of his arsenal at times when he should simply be attacking hitters, and with his pitch count being monitored, he'll need bullpen support to get wins. With Arizona's injury woes, Bauer looks like he's up to stay, and even with his issues he's among the best fantasy rookie pickups from here going forward.
Long-term: Bauer will be good now and is likely five years away from peaking. He has the talent to turn into a consistent All-Star and possibly even a future Cy Young candidate. No matter which ceiling he reaches, 200-plus strikeouts will be a constant.