There may not be a more frustrating prospect in any MLB farm system than Trevor Bauer. Bauer was the Arizona Diamondbacks' top prospect before Cleveland acquired him just prior to the 2013 season.
Essentially, Bauer left in exchange for prospect Didi Gregorius, a weak-hitting and slick-fielding shortstop. It was evident then that concerns about Bauer's mental makeup and maturity were already present.
Now, after a year with the Indians, Bauer has only added to those concerns.
In 22 starts with Triple-A Columbus, Bauer compiled numbers that would be somewhat respectable for any 22-year-old starting pitcher. However, Bauer isn't just any 22-year-old prospect, and a pitcher with his potential and pitch arsenal should not be allowing a 4.15 ERA or a 1.58 WHIP at any minor league level.
Bauer also made four starts with the big league club in 2013, meeting with similar results. Bauer worked to a horrific stat line, including a 5.29 ERA, a 1.82 WHIP and averages of 5.8 K/9, 8.5 BB/9, 7.9 H/9 and 1.6 HR/9.
Bauer has the potential to miss bats and induce weak contact, as evidenced by his allowing 7.9 H/9 at the major league level last season. However, the young righty doesn't throw enough strikes to be an effective pitcher—his career strike percentage of 57 is far below the major league average (64 percent) over the last two seasons.
Bauer is a headstrong pitcher with a penchant for aggravating teammates and pitching coaches. It's been speculated that his pregame warm-up regiment may have something to do with his ineffectiveness during games, but the 22-year-old has shown zero willingness to change it.
According to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, Bauer's progress this offseason has inspired some confidence in his coaching staff. In reference to videos he had seen, manager Terry Francona stated that, "He's making key adjustments. It's exciting. Hopefully, we'll see some results in Spring Training."
You may wonder, after all the issues listed above, why Bauer would be the team's fifth starter. Well, it's mostly because the Indians don't have any better options.
The team lost starter Scott Kazmir to the Oakland A's this offseason, and they haven't shown much interest in bringing back free-agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez either. In fact, the only moves the Indians have made to try and add some starting depth include signing Tyler Cloyd and Shaun Marcum.
Cloyd was solid in the latter half of his minor league career with the Phillies, but failed to post any numbers that make a convincing argument for his inclusion in a big league rotation.
Marcum, a 32-year-old veteran with an injury-laden past, is coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome, an ailment which saps away at a pitcher's velocity. Marcum had very little velocity to begin with, and it seems unlikely that he'll be able to regain his form and overtake Bauer.
The team will also work out in-house options Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin.
Carrasco struggles with a lot of the same control issues that Bauer does, and he looks to be better suited for a relief role moving forward. Tomlin, similarly to Marcum, has an injury history that has kept him from progressing into a steady contributor to the Indians' rotation.
In short, unless Bauer goes out and has a mental breakdown on the mound during spring training, he'll be the team's fifth starter for the 2014 season.