Pitching behind high-profile righty Gerrit Cole, UCLA’s Trevor Bauer hasn’t gotten the amount of attention his talent warrants. Pitching for one of the country’s top baseball programs, Bauer led the Bruins in to the best-of-three final of the 2010 College World Series. After he won the Bruins first College World Series game against Texas Christian University last June to wrap up his 2010 season, Bauer has followed with another impressive campaign this season. He’s flourished under a heavy workload, posting a 12-2 record–setting UCLA career records for wins (33) and strikeouts (433). He also led the country in numerous pitching categories in ’11—including innings-pitched (127 2/3), strikeouts (189) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.7). For his performance, Bauer was recently named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.
While he’s not as flashy as Gerrit Cole, Bauer is this draft classes’ most complete pitcher. His deep repertoire includes a 90-95 mph four-seam fastball, two variations of his 78-82 mph downer curveball, both a conventional slider and a screwballing backdoor slider, a hard splitter and an above-average circle-changeup. All of Bauer’s offerings rate as average to plus, and he’s a savvy pitcher who hits his spots and rarely ever wastes a pitch. Throwing his offspeed and breaking pitches, he’s adept at using the same arm slot, and a similar release to that of his fastball. He adds so much deception to his curveballs because he’ll throw them through the same tunnel (aka on the same plane) as his fastball– making it extremely difficult for opposing batters to ever get on the pitch’s break. Furthermore, his coiled, Tim Lincecum-esc delivery and loose arm not only helps him hide the ball, but it also helps him add extra movement and explosiveness to each of his offerings.
Though Bauer has the deep repertoire of a junkballer, Bauer’s stuff has plenty of electricity and he isn’t purely finesse pitcher by any stretch. He’s got a power arm to match his bag of tricks. After scrapping his 2-seam fastball from his arsenal before the beginning of this past season, Bauer has focused on using his four-seamer to attack hitters this year. As a result from the extra work he’s put in, his four-seamer has developed consistent above-average velocity, sitting in the 91-93 range and will even occasionally reach 94-95 mph. He has also developed better feel for his fastball and he attacks hitters on the inside part of the plate. He spots his heater with above-average command and throws quality strikes. His mechanics make his fastball explode out of his hand and they should help him carry his strikeout totals into his professional career.
Bauer’s best pitch is his high 70s curveball. It easily grades as plus and is already a big-league strikeout pitch. He has great feel for all of his offerings, but his heater and curve are polished MLB plus offerings and they’re ahead of the rest of his repertoire. He’ll spin his curve in for a called strike, using its 12-6 movement and his deceptive release to freeze opposing batters just as precisely as he can drop it off of the table as a chase-pitch, down-and-away (from righties) with razor-sharp break.
Bauer is so well-rounded that he’s nearly without weakness. Nearly. One of the few knocks on his stock concerns his future durability. He has more mileage on his arm than any other pitcher in this year’s draft class. He’s so dedicated to his conditioning and workout routine that he’s easily been able to withstand the extremely heavy workloads that his UCLA coaches have saddled him with. Still though, shouldering 129-pitch outings as a 21-year-old– like he did this past March against Nebraska—is definitely a cause for concern. He lead the NCAA in innings pitching, complete games and shutouts in 2011; an impressive feat though his arm has clearly suffered serious abuse.
Bauer doesn’t have the name value that Cole has but he could actually be the safer pick for a team in need of pitching. He’s one of the draft’s most polished pitchers, with a deep repertoire, mound presence and good fastball command. He’s in great shape, with good stamina, a work-horse approach to conditioning and he’s an efficient pitcher who’ll give his club plenty of quality innings. On draft day, Bauer will hear his name called early, and definitely by the tenth pick.