Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: Right-handed pitcher
- Age: 23
- Acquired: via trade for Shin-Soo Choo, December 2012
- Contract status: Pre-arbitration for 2015 (~$500,000)
By the time Trevor Bauer was shipped from Arizona to Cleveland, the shine was starting to wear off his prospect status. But even a slightly tarnished Bauer possessed the potential to sit atop a rotation, so the hopes were high. Many, including yours truly, were thrilled with the return and excited to see what Bauer could do.
His first year in Cleveland was pretty much a disaster, and as a result, he started 2015 in Columbus. After a dominant first start for the Clippers (6 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 1 ER), Bauer was called up for a spot start on April 9 against a weak San Diego Padres offense. The start was solid (another 6 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, lending credence to the theory that the Padres had a AAA lineup), but Bauer was sent back to Columbus immediately after the start.
Over six more AAA starts, Bauer showed some important progress. Bauer's issues have always been two-fold - walks and home runs (which, by the way, are the two biggest problems a pitcher can have). But over his seven AAA starts in April and May, he kept the walks down (2.74 BB/9 after 5.41 last year), and kept the HR in check (.98 HR/9, down from 1.04). And that was enough to earn him a shot back with the big club.
After coming back, Bauer wasn't great, but he wasn't bad enough to lose his job, either. He took the mound every fifth day the rest of the way, putting together a total of 26 starts and 153 IP. But the season was a bit up and down.
Here's an example - between August 8 and September 9, Bauer gave up 5, 2, 5, 0, 0, 4, and 4 runs. His strike outs ranged from 9 over 6 IP to 4 over 5.2. His walks ranged from 2 over 8 IP to 4 over 3.1. Sometimes he would look like a future star; sometimes he would look like a future Clipper.
The sum total was 8.41 K/9 (better than he did in MLB or AAA last year), 3.53 BB/9 (again better than he did at either level last year), .94 HR/9 (again improvement over both AAA and MLB). He posted a 4.18 ERA and 4.01 FIP, neither of which scream "ace," but both of which are huge improvements and both of which suggest "solid rotation piece."
And keep in mind, Bauer is still just 23. He's been hyped for years and this is the third year in which he has faced MLB hitters, but he is still learning to pitch.
2014 grade: C
Bauer is almost assuredly the #4 going into the season, and if he does nothing but repeat his 2014, he'll be a solid fourth starter. But in camp and the early season, I'll be watching the BB and HR numbers. If those continue trending down, the Tribe could have something special on their hands. The thing is, he doesn't HAVE to improve to be a valuable piece, and that is a great place to be.