Trevor Bauer seems to be a name that pops up every year as a breakout candidate. The 27-year-old has been trending upward for the past four seasons, and a lot went right for him in 2017. In his fourth full season, Bauer posted a 4.19 ERA, 1.37 WHIP in 176.1 innings of work. While his numbers don’t jump off the page just yet, you’re going to want to grab Bauer in dynasty leagues while you still can.
Bauer took huge steps forward in 2017, specifically his final two months. Over his final 12 starts, Bauer posted a 2.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His late success can be attributed in large part to his implementation of a slider. Bauer’s known for his deep repertoire, consisting of a fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, changeup, and splitter. Late in the 2017 season, he relied less on the cutter and he worked on utilizing the slider much more often. It helped him record a career-high 196 strikeouts in 176.1 innings and an even 10.0 K/9.
The implementation of the slider also helped him work the zone more. He finished the season with a career-best 3.06 BB/9 to go along with all the strikeouts. Unfortunately for Bauer, he was still largely susceptible to the long ball. His 16.1 percent HR/FB was the highest mark of his career and was huge in inflating his ERA to 4.19.
If Bauer’s strong finish to 2017 (2.57 ERA, 10.2 K/9 in 70 August/September innings) is any indication, he has a very bright future in front of him. There’s been some doubt that he was ever going to reach his top-15 starter ceiling that we hoped from him as a prospect. However, the adjustments he’s made, such as ditching the cutter and adding the slider, along with his 2017 season, put that back into the realm of possibility. Bauer is one of the smartest pitchers in the game and has the arsenal to establish himself as one of the best arms in the game.
While his performance has been inconsistent at times, Bauer’s durability has not. Over the past three seasons, he’s totaled 89 starts and has amassed 542.1 innings. He’s remained on the field and has proven he can help his team every fifth day. Minus, of course, the infamous drone incident during the World Series.
The biggest key for Bauer long-term is his ability to learn how to pitch and not throw. He’s already done a lot of that the past couple of seasons and should only continue to get better. We’ve pinned Bauer as a breakout candidate before, but I truly believe this is his year. His last 12 starts of 2017 are what we can expect from Bauer when he’s at his best.
Not only do I think Bauer will show us his best again in 2018, but I think he will start to become more consistent. Will he post a sub-2.50 ERA and elite level walk-rates throughout entire seasons? Probably not. However, when he’s on top of his game, we can surely see long stretches with those numbers. He’s already a very serviceable pitcher, but expect Bauer to finally break into the top-20 in 2018 and beyond.