We’ve already discussed the warnings that come with relying on rookies in fantasy baseball and that effect is felt even further with starting pitchers, but if there is one group of rookie pitchers who can have a more significant impact than others, it’s those pitchers who have seen time in the majors the previous season.
Among the leaders of that class is Trevor Bauer, now of the Cleveland Indians.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding rookie starting pitchers is just how many starts they will make. Typically teams skip their young starters, restrict their innings, and limit the number of starts they make in order to help build up their innings for future years rather than subjecting them to a big jump from one year to the next. Bauer, on the other hand, is a pitcher who is known for doing an excessive amount of throwing, both before and during games. He jumped straight from his time at UCLA to the minors in 2011 and in 2012, he threw 146 2/3 innings, more than most pitchers who qualify as rookies this season.
This doesn’t mean that the Indians will start the season with Bauer in the rotation. He is in camp this spring, battling for the final spot in the Indians starting rotation with the likes of Scott Kazmir, Daisuke Matsuzaka and others. But even if Bauer doesn’t begin the season in the majors, he’s sure to be there at some point this season.
The other major question, however, is what he’ll provide fantasy owners once he’s there.
Bauer has fallen from a highly touted prospect in the Diamondbacks farm system to being labeled as a stubborn young pitcher who apparently rubbed teammates the wrong way so badly that he was traded for pennies on the dollar. In the majors last season, Bauer struggled mightily, walking too many batters and posting a 6.06 ERA in four starts.
Bauer has always pitched with his own strategy, and in the minors, that led to good strikeout numbers but also plenty of walks. In the majors, those walks skyrocketed and led to the high ERA. Bauer is unlikely to completely change his approach, but he will have to adjust a little bit and attack the strike zone a little more if he wants to be effective in the majors.
Despite his flaws, Bauer is still very much the talented pitcher that got him selected 3rd overall in the 2011 draft. Pitching in Cleveland could be better for his fantasy numbers than pitching in Arizona would have been, and pitching against the weak AL Central will certainly help him be more productive.
Bauer is still a potential top-of-the-rotation starter and should collect solid strike out numbers (even when struggling last season he fanned more than a batter per inning). With the Indians revamped lineup, he should get plenty of run support and his arm is primed to throw deep into games once he stops dancing around hitters.
Bauer might not be ready to dominate just yet, but when he gets the hang of pitching in the majors, he’s going to take off quickly. That could be some time this season, depending on when the Indians call him up.