A rallying cry this offseason among people watching the Arizona Diamondbacks has been "FREE TREVOR BAUER", referring to the fifth overall pick in last year's amateur draft who is running roughshod over the minor leagues. After 93 innings and 16 starts in the minors this year, the call has been made, and Bauer will make his major league debut for the Diamondbacks on Thursday in Atlanta against the Braves.
Arizona needed to make a move to bring up a starter after Joe Saunders was forced to go on the DL yesterday with inflammation in his left shoulder. After Bauer's fellow prospect Pat Corbin earned a shot in the majors earlier this year (before being demoted to AAA Reno), either Corbin or the highly touted Bauer seemed like the logical option to replace Saunders in the rotation, and Bauer was the choice.
The UCLA alum has absolutely dominated the minors this year, much like he dominated the NCAA during his career as a Bruin. Bauer has struck out 116 batters in those 93 minor league innings this season, which leads all minor leaguers. Hell, it's also more than any pitcher in the majors has. Some fans had lamented Bauer's season due to a relatively high walk total (48 this year), but scouts were attributing that to Bauer learning how to pitch professionally and master his pitches, as opposed to a lack of control or command.
Perhaps most impressive to me about Bauer is that eight of his starts this season came in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Bauer had a 2.82 ERA in PCL play, and had allowed more than three runs in a start just once. Bauer also got more ground ball outs in PCL play than he did when he was in the AA Southern League, perhaps showing an ability to modify his pitching style based on the park he was in, a very unique and impressive trait.
At any rate, Bauer will take his place in a pretty solid Arizona rotation. They've used a total of seven starters this year, with Josh Collmenter quickly losing his job and being forced to the bullpen, and Corbin making a few starts while Daniel Hudson was on the DL. Hudson's been pretty bad this year, but Miley, Trevor Cahill, and Ian Kennedy have been pretty damn good, combing for 5.7 fWAR. Replacing the soft-throwing, mediocre Saunders with Bauer is a step in the right direciton for a team that has struggled for the first two months of the year before getting hot here in June and making it a three-team race in the NL West.
The Diamondbacks would be foolish to send Bauer down and replace him with Saunders when the veteran comes off of the DL. By the same token, I think they'd be foolish if they replaced Hudson with Saunders. Kennedy and Cahill aren't going anywhere, and Miley has been such a great surprise that Arizona can't make a move involving him. It makes you possibly wonder whether or not they could dangle Saunders or Hudson over the next month, especially with Corbin and fellow top prospect Tyler Skaggs also on the cusp of the majors.
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