It was the type of shrewd move that could have helped propel Cleveland back into relevancy, a perfect storm of sorts created by Arizona’s willingness to sell low on a top prospect and the Indians’ readiness to move on from one of its core members whose contract was set to expire in a year.
All it would eventually take was Didi Gregorius, a solid yet unspectacular shortstop who, for some reason or another, drew comparisons to Derek Jeter – and his range – by Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers.
In my book, The 2014 Prospect Digest Annual, I wrote: “The mega three-team deal involving Arizona and Cincinnati had the makings as a career defining move for Cleveland’s GM Chris Antonetti, and Bauer, taken five picks before shortstop Francisco Lindor, looked like the crown jewel.”
The key term, of course, is “looked like.”
Towers bounced Bauer out of the organization after some perceived shortcomings – his unwillingness to leave behind his unique pregame throwing regimen and a public spat between his backstop Miguel Montero – despite dominating numbers in the minor leagues.
Just one season removed from winning The Golden Spikes Award, given to college baseball’s top player, Bauer had breezed through four levels of the minor leagues and made a handful of starts in Arizona. Except by the end of last year it looked like Arizona knew something all of baseball didn’t know.
Bauer struggled mightily , setting careers worsts in ERA (4.15), K/9 (7.9), BB/9 (5.4), FIP (5.08) with Columbus while getting yo-yoed back-and-forth to Cleveland (where the results were much worse).
Simply put, he was a mess – an absolute mess.
Mechanically, Bauer opted to start what would be his final appearance in Cleveland in 2013 out of the stretch. Mentally, he seemed lost.
I continued in The Annual, “The talent’s still there. Whether he can put it back together is another question, though he’ll be just 23-years-old.”
Well, just three starts in the 2014 season – one in Cleveland and two in Columbus – and it sure as hell looks like the old Bauer is back.
After spending time with the coaching staff revamping his mechanics during the offseason, the 6-foot-1, 190 pound right-hander has been nothing short of dominant. In 12.0 innings in the International League, Bauer has fanned 18 and walked just three. And his call-up start against San Diego, which was sandwiched around his MiLB action, was just as impressive: 6.0 IP, 8 K’s, 2 BB’s, and his fastball velocity was up nearly two miles-per-hour, to 94.1.
Obviously three starts doesn’t make a career. But Bauer hasn’t pitched like this since at least 2012 and perhaps not since his time at UCLA. With Cleveland’s young rotation still finding itself – I’m looking at you Carlos Carrasco – Bauer’s permanent gig with the Tribe could be right around the corner.
Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost via Flickr.com.