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Over/Under 2021 Preview: Jake Bauers

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Will Jake Bauers be worth more or less than 0.2 fWAR in 2021?

Cleveland Indians v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Based on ZiPS projections, Nolan Jones is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

559 PA, 16 HR, 13 SB, 11.1 BB%, 27.2 K%, .227/.315/.391, 84 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Matt Lyons’s Prediction: OVER

Among the many negatives of last year’s circus of a baseball season, there was an opportunity for teams to provide an unprecedented amount of training and tinkering behind closed doors. Top prospects and near-major-league-ready prospects alike were stuffed together at Cleveland’s alternate training site in Eastlake for an extra two months of spring training under close watch. If there was one small positive to be gained from 2020, it was that teams got a much closer look at some of their hidden talents than they may have otherwise.

No one will be a bigger test of this situation’s value than Jake Bauers. After turning 25 in October, he comes into 2021 without any option years left and a crowded group to compete with at first base.

Cleveland wants Bauers to focus on sticking at first base, but he will be competing with the infinite power of Bobby Bradley, and potentially Josh Naylor if no other outfield spots are open. Either he’ll get his shot out of spring training and get ample playing time at first base or the outfield — or he’ll be gone. There is no more sending him to the minors; no more letting him work things out in Triple-A. He’ll either figure it in Cleveland out or be put on waivers and most likely claimed by a rebuilding team with no problem having a first baseman stay at the .227/.315/.391 slash ZiPS projects.

There is certainly hope he’s figured something out, though. Before everything hit the fan last season, Bauers was already well into using a new plate approach to help him earn a spot somewhere. He mentally struggled with joining a new team in 2019, but reports indicated that he was more confident than ever before 2020. He seems to have carried that new approach — both physically and mentally — into 2021 spring training. Maybe that’s the difference between an 80 wRC+ and a 110 wRC+ for Bauers.

On the outside, of course, we have not had a chance to see his swing changes in game action, but maybe a better mental state and shorter path to the baseball can go hand-in-hand to make Bauers a better-hitting first baseman. Or left-fielder. Or right-fielder. Or wherever he ends up playing.

If Bauers can get to the 559 PA as ZiPS suggests, I think he’ll easily get over 0.2 fWAR. More realistically, I think he’ll be a decent hitter, probably bounce around between positions, and finish with a wRC+ closer to 100. Nothing to blow away this projection. Just enough to be better.

Poll

Will Jake Bauers finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under 0.2?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Over
    (63 votes)
  • 52%
    Under
    (70 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now