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Swinging for the Fences: From the gutter to the grail

Time for Trevor Bauer to live his lyrics and step up in 2014

Swinging for the Fences: From the gutter to the grail
December 17, 2013
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"From the gutter to the grail. we rise up to win it..."

Those lyrical words of encouragement penned by newly-arrived pitching prospect Trevor Bauer provided some inspiration for the new-look Tribe early in the year. Big league teammate Mark Reynolds even did the young right-handed rapping prodigy the honor of using his composition as his walk-up music for a while.

But while Bauer's contributions to the hip-hop community may have been productive last season, the same cannot be said for his pitching, unfortunately.

The once-highly touted prospect and third overall pick out of UCLA in the 2011 MLB draft regressed significantly with his new ballclub after being shipped off by Arizona in a three-team mega trade that sent him to Cleveland along with Diamondbacks teammates Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers along with another former top prospect in Drew Stubbs, who hadn't exactly panned out for the Reds.

The 22-year-old engineering major from Southern California has been a student of pitching and the mechanics behind it his entire baseball career and has developed...let's just say unconventional...habits and techniques both during pre-game warmups and in-game pitching itself.

Born in North Hollywood, California on January 17, 1991, Trevor Andrew Bauer embarked on an amateur baseball trek marked off by various historical feats and records as he worked his way up to being one of the most highly-touted MLB draft prospects in the nation.

Starting at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California, Bauer made his first imprint in the history books by posting an impressive 12-0 record with an 0.79 ERA and 106 strikeouts during his junior year to earn him All-CIF Southern Section Division I First-Team honors and a first-team All-Southern selection. 

These were just the first of his accolades as he went on to attend college at UCLA, where in his freshman year, he went 9-3 with a 2.99 ERA and 92 punchouts in 105.1 innings of work. This performance earned him a spot on the 2009 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and Baseball America's freshman All-America team.

In 2010, he helped lead the Bruins to a College World Series appearance as he went 12-3 with a 3.02 ERA. Unfortunately, they lost to South Carolina.

In 2011, however, his amateur career reached it's peak as he wint 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 16 starts. He also set a Pac-10 record with 203 strikeouts and UCLA school records in career wins (34), strikeouts (460) and innings pitched (373.1). He also received the Golden Spikes Award from USA Baseball.

His high school and collegiate accomplishments warranted a third overall selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft. Starting in single-A Visalia, the right-hander needed less than a year to work his way up through the system and make his big league debut on June 28, 2012 against Atlanta. Unfortunately, his first taste of the majors was short-lived as he was optioned back to AAA Reno in July after going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA.

In the 2012-13 offseason, Bauer was the focal point of a three-team mega trade between Arizona, Cleveland and Cincinnati as the Tribe got him and relievers Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers from the Diamondbacks along with outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds in exchange for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and utility infielder Jason Donald, who went to Cincinnati and reliever Tony Sipp and infield prospect Lars Anderson, who were shipped off to Arizona. Reds shortstop prospect Didi Gregorious was also sent to Diamondbacks to complete the deal.

With his new club in Cleveland, Bauer got four more big league starts where he showed some promise, but overall was still not as impressive as the hype surrounding him as he posted an identical record of 1-2, although he did shave nearly a run off his ERA at 5.29.

Trevor Bauer's eccentricities when it comes to pitching have been well-documented starting with his unconventional mechanics, which he has, by his own admission, he has modeled after two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.

Bauer considers himself an avid student of pitching as he has studied film of himself and other pitchers frame by frame as he is continually looking to make adjustments to his mechanics. He has also posted film online to instruct up and coming pitchers on different pitch grips and delivery techniques.

His detailed study and development of his own pitching mechanics also led to a great deal of confidence, which could lead to thinking he has everything all figured out, which could lead to stubbornness.

At least, that's how Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero tells it. Following the trade, the veteran backstop spoke not so fondly of the young right-hander saying he was unwilling to heed suggestions and was tough to get on the same page with.

His unorthodox warmup routines, including playing long-toss before games didn't sit well with some in the Diamondbacks organization. The Indians, on the other hand, have supported Bauer and his pitching methods since he arrived here.

Whether Bauer was unwilling to take instruction or he just was a young, hot-shot pitcher with a swelled head, he received a nice serving of humble pie in 2013 as his walk rates at the major and minor league levels skyrocketed to new career highs (8.47 BB/9 and 5.41 BB/9, respectively) as command became a lingering issue that had to be dealt with.

The right-hander boasts many variations of different pitches, but his basic arsenel consists of a fastball, changeup, curveball, slider and splitter. While he doesn't showcase a ton of velocity, his fastball has been known to reach 95 mph on the gun.

Since the end of the season, Indians GM Chris Antonetti said the Indians have had "constant contact" with Bauer as he has been down at the Texas Baseball Ranch and team scouts monitoring his work down there have reported that he looks as good as when he first came out of UCLA as a Golden Spikes Award winner.

Bauer has also been said to have agreed to terms with the Tribe on what adjustments he needs to make to make him better prepared for next season.

Does this mean the stories coming out of Arizona were overblown? Or have his recent control lapses brought the young right-hander back down to earth a bit? We'll probably never know, but the point is, he's putting in the work now and is more open to suggestions from his new ball club.

Tribe skipper Terry Francona has also been in the loop on Bauer's mechanical adjustments and has classified what he's seen so far as "exciting" and says the 23-year-old can't wait to come to spring camp and show the team what he's really all about.

If it means more of those 19 different types of pitches he claims to throw land in the strike zone, I've got no complaints.

This spring, the awards, accolades and hype all go out the window for Bauer. This is reality in the world of Major League Baseball. He'll be a rookie pitcher battling head to head with more experienced arms in Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and now newly-added veteran Shaun Marcum.

Bauer the rapper made it clear what his pitching cohorts are capable of.

"Ubaldo always cruising..."

"Cody Allen turn the heat up..."

"Nasty Masty with the sink..."

What will your lyric say, Trevor?

Jake's Takes

Indians sign John Axford to 1-year/$4.5 million deal, plus incentives... I think I may be in the minority on this, but I like Axford as a rebound candidate with the Tribe. Of course, a lot of people like the deal better after finding out the terms, but I was a fan when the rumors first surfaced.

One quick glance at his 2013 stats probably won't impress many, but when you break it down further, the right-hander's first four appearances of the year were primarily what buoyed his overall stats. His successive 71 appearances rendered a much better-looking 2.92 ERA. Plus, after he was traded to St. Louis late in the year, he posted a 1.74 ERA in 13 appearances.

Have his skills declined since his dominant 46-save season in 2011? Possibly. Can he still rebound and become an effective closer again? Absolutely. If you're a pitcher looking to revive your career, spending time at the pitching assembly line in St. Louis and now with Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway in Cleveland isn't a bad way to go about it.

Plus, have you checked out his Twitter account? Funny stuff.

Shaun Marcum inks minor league deal with Tribe... It's early, but this may be my favorite signing of the offseason for the Indians thus far. For the past few seasons, Cleveland has been in search of a reliable veteran starter to anchor down the middle of their rotation. Unfortunately, their experiments thus far have not panned out as they would've liked, right Derek? Brett?

The difference between Marcum and the other aforementioned veteren starters is that Chris Antonetti managed to pick him up on a minor league deal, whereas the others were guaranteed big league contracts. If it doesn't work, no harm, no foul. Of course, the downside to that is Marcum can opt out of his deal if he doesn't make the 25-man roster by Opening Day.

The right-hander had a rough 2013 as he only appeared in 14 games with the Mets posting a 1-10 record and a 5.29 ERA before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Prior to this season, however, Marcum had been a workhorse for both the Blue Jays and Brewers posting a sub-4 ERA for four straight seasons and pitching 150-plus innings for three of them.

He'll get an equal shot of making the rotation as Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin, but if healthy, he could have a leg-up on the competition.

Royals sign Omar Infante to 4-year deal... If I were to grade the AL Central teams' offseason thus far, the Royals would likely receive high marks. While I wasn't crazy about the Jason Vargas signing, what they've done since than has been very productive in acquiring Norichika Aoki, a solid contact hitter who hopefully can improve the consistency of that offense, and now Infante, who fills a huge hole at second base for them.

What this team amounts to as a unit remains to be seen, but looking all around the field, I see a quality player at every position. I still think Kansas City needs to continue to keep tabs on the starting pitching market since I don't believe they have adequately replaced Ervin Santana in their rotation, but I have to give credit to Dayton Moore for what he's done so far this offseason.

The race in the Central may very well end up being one of the better divisional battles in baseball next season.

Mets sign Bartolo Colon to a 2-year/$20 million contract... I'm willing to admit I pondered a Colon-Cleveland reunion this offseason. Someway, somehow, this guy is still putting up Cy Young-caliber numbers at his age and weight. That being said, committing $20 million to a 40-year-old pitcher is a risky investment no matter how you slice it.

Although I will say it does make some sense for the Mets given that they have lost their budding star ace Matt Harvey for at least a year due to Tommy John surgery and need someone to fill his spot. Plus, they get an extra year with Colon if and when Harvey returns in 2015 to stay as a veteran leader in a rotation with young guns such as Harvey and Zach Wheeler.

Still, it's a sizable committment to a pitcher who could hit a wall at any moment this late in his career.

Matt Albers signed by Houston to 1-year/$2.25 million deal... Albers is one of those guys you don't miss until he's gone. While I don't disagree with the decision to let him walk due to up and coming internal relief options, I do think the right-hander did his job exceptionally well as a mop-up duty/long-relief pitcher for the Tribe last season. Let's remember that role was once filled by the likes of Jeremy Accardo and Chad Durbin. 

Current internal options such as Carlos Carrasco, Frank Herrman and CC Lee are capable of taking over the vacated long-relief role, but it was nice having a reliable option in the bullpen to come in early when a starter is getting shelled and limit further damage in order to give the Tribe a chance to get back in the game.

Good luck in Houston, Matt!

In Conclusion...

Once again heading into 2013, the Indians will be trying to catch lightning in a bottle with signings such as Marcum and Axford, but that also presents an opportunity for internal options such as Trevor Bauer to finally prove their worth. We were all sorely disappointed last season after he didn't pan out like the former first round draft pick we thought we were getting. The good news in that is this season, the pressure is off since expectations won't be as high.

Not sure if that's the way Bauer sees it, but like the other pitchers vying for a rotation spot, it's his to lose.

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

User Comments

December 18, 2013 - 2:44 PM EST
All Bauer needs is a chance and Cleveland have been very patient with him. If Mickey get him right, add him with another young pitcher named Danny S, hey we might see some strike out this season and what a starting staff. Things are looking up with the only hole now third base and it would be great to see Carlos there and we still have our young players since they were not given up in a wasteful trade for some player on his downside of his career. I like the cushion of Axford and Marcum gives up. With Terry and the team now, players want to play for us. Go Tribe
December 17, 2013 - 9:04 PM EST
If anyone outside of Phoenix hasn't noticed it is rare that a player leaves the D'Back's without immediately getting trashed via the media.

The owner Ken Kendrick has a habit of airing dirty whines via interviews - he complained about Steven Drew and his agent 'negotiating' by not properly rehabbing. Talked about Justin Upton's lack of passion as code for lazy star attitude - and - Bauer was accused of not 'understanding the employer employee relationship' - as if this is the 1890's.

Now it's is Adam Eaton's turn. He, just as it was fodder for the sports talk folks here two years ago with Jarrod Parker, is supposedly selfish and not team oriented.

Hey, is Bauer exotic for a baseball locker room - sure. The guy is a genuine intellectual - despite the rap routine. Whip smart. The talent is everywhere.

Cleveland has been a perfect fit. We had an exciting year and an unexpected run - that besides those few early spot starts - let this guy develop.

Tito and the FO have given him what he asked for.

Total opposite of what Towers/Kendrick and Gibson did TO HIM. They brought him up when their team was flailing - after building him up for the fan base as the next big thing - And immediately threw him into a buzz saw and used him as a scapegoat.

While the press tore into him - they seemed to miss that Gibson & Towers follow up to a surprise run the year before was a big flat zero.

The same catcher who trashed him - Montero - never caught half as much bad press for a lost season this past year when he stunk up the home park. And Bauer pitched all of six starts?

Show a little faith and have some more patience. He just might pitch himself into the rotation come March. Because if he has mastered the mechanics to throw strikes - he has awesome stuff.

And if he needs fixing - Callaway has certainly put himself on everyone'[s radar as a maestro with his Ubaldo resurrection.

CA is ... ?
December 17, 2013 - 8:05 PM EST
I heard that Bauer wasn't getting enough snatch in Cleveland and that was his problem last year.
matt underwood
December 17, 2013 - 6:53 PM EST
Once again... figure out how to Draft even remotely well and a lot of the garbage picking is not needed.

December 17, 2013 - 6:18 PM EST
I really like Bauer, there's not a lot of other 22 yr old pitchers with big league experience or a win in NYY on their resume.

Btw, I have also heard Bauer will have an option in '14 and '15, so running out of options is not a concern just yet...I hope it never is.

IF Bauer's mechanics are sound, the rest is results. Obviously, one affects the other. Bauer, is immensely talented and bright enough to figure it out. That said, he has to produce.

Personally, I've learned to temper my expectations, but I really think Bauer could develop into a #2 SP *maybe* more. But I expect no worse than a BOR arm.
Canadian Joe
December 17, 2013 - 5:31 PM EST
Two things on Bauer;
-is his arm sound ?
-have the screws between his ears been tightened ?

If yes is the answer to both, we still might have ourselves a hell of a pitcher !!!
December 17, 2013 - 5:28 PM EST
Robert, we will look at Barnes at some point here, but have a feeling that barring a trade to clear a roster spot that Barnes is getting DFAed to clear a spot for Axford.
December 17, 2013 - 5:26 PM EST
"Current internal options such as Carlos Carrasco, Frank Herrman and CC Lee are capable of taking over the vacated long-relief role..." -- Frank Hermann? Are you kidding? I'd put Tomlin on that list with Carlos -- and way higher than Frank or CC (who imo doesn't really fit the profile of a long-reliever).

BTW, I would love for someone at IBI to do a piece that explains how it was that Scott Barnes totally imploded last year, as well as what the prognosis is for his survival as a prospect.
December 17, 2013 - 5:16 PM EST
Just off the top of my head without looking, I believe Bauer will be eligible for a fourth option year.
MT88 in WI
December 17, 2013 - 5:02 PM EST
The 'sad' aspect for Bauer is he is down to 1 option year remaining and I think it is safe to say it will be used in 2014. If he doesn't find it soon, the clock might expire.
MT88 in WI
December 17, 2013 - 5:00 PM EST
Has anyone heard what Charles Nagy is doing for 2014?? I know he was let go by Arizona after last season and he went to Arizona after being the PC for AAA Columbus. i'm curous for 2 reasons:

1) I'm always curious if former Tribe players are interested to come back and coach here and Nagy always seemed to have a solid relationship with Mel Harder who could be argued was Mr. Indian before Herb Score.

2) Being in Arizona Nagy might have a "interesting" take on young Mr. Bauer. Good or ill I would be interested to know the thoughts of Mr. Nagy about Mr. Bauer.
December 17, 2013 - 4:38 PM EST
bauer was the number one starter at UCLA even with the presense of garrit cole who is a pretty good pitcher for the bucs. i am troubled by his command so far however it can sometimes come on like a light bulb. Even though one is more established and the other is a kid. Ubaldo suddenly found the elusive command mid season 2013. With cole on your team you are not the friday night starter without command so it is a recapture situation with bauer too just his success at ucla wasnt something to sneeze at. So lets have the glass half full of the 4 pitchers referred to as options as of now for the vacant staqrter job the highest by far upside is bauer. Carrasco prolly due to options has the pole in the race but performance dictates everything and a baseball season is a marathon and if carlos shows what he has shown except for those great 6 weeks in 2011 then he has a short leash. Josh can go back and continue his rehab and magrum isnt 100% healthy and could be candidate for the DL and his rehab should be very enlightening. if healthy we have a kazmir potential if not a million dollars is all that is lost.
December 17, 2013 - 4:16 PM EST

Thanks for the reminder, I think we should all remember he is only entering his age 23 season. IF he were 25 already it would be a bit more disconcerting.

If reports are true of Bauer looking like he did coming out of UCLA that's encouraging news. I still don't think he's on the club until at least May at the earliest, even if he is very effective in ST and AAA. It seems like Tomlin, Carrasco and Marcum will have first shot at the 5th SP spot. If Marcum is healthy, I think he bumps Carrasco to long relief and Tomlin to AAA.
December 17, 2013 - 3:32 PM EST
I'm excited to see Bauer. I liked him alot when he was with AZ and was more than excited when the Indians got him in that trade. I'm happy to see that he's narrowed his mechanics down and will have it down by time ST rolls around. I expect some fine tuning and rough patches but I do expect to see him getting better and better so that he can be a viable option later on in the season when the Indians will rely on depth in the farm system to keep them afloat.
December 17, 2013 - 2:42 PM EST
Two young pitchers from last year give me hope for Bauer in 2014:

Julio Teahran with the Braves and Martin Perez with the Rangers. Both top pitching specs whose stock seemed way down heading into the season after rough 2012s. Both showed why they were top specs.

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