Reality Check: Is Bauer keeping you up at night?

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Your alarm blares. You turn it off and scoop it up in one motion, skeptical that you could have set it for such an inhumane hour the night before.

Six o'clock? Nope, think again.

It's midday, and your stomach is growling. Not wanting to forfeit your lunch break too early, you turn to the clock and think, "Surely it's 1 by now. I had a big breakfast and everything."

But it's not. Not even close.

You go home and go to bed, exhausted from another long day. But you can't sleep. Something deep inside tells you now isn't the time for that. Tossing and turning, you sneak a peek at the clock to get a sense of how much time you've already lost.

And to your dismay, not an hour has gone by. In fact, the clock reads the same as it has all day.

Bauer hour.

It's when Fantasy owners stop to watch and wait, counting down the seconds until the next great thing arrives.

When it started is debatable, but you can't deny we're in the thick of it now. With his promotion to Triple-A Reno on Thursday, the 21-year-old phenom is now just a hiccup away from setting foot in the majors.

And in case you haven't noticed, the Diamondbacks have had their share of hiccups so far.

Between Daniel Hudson hurting his shoulder and Josh Collmenter showing his true colors, they've already had to burn through both of their in-house alternatives to Trevor Bauer, and neither has done anything to convince the them that they've filled those holes long-term. The worse of the two, Patrick Corbin, already has one foot out the door with Hudson nearing a return, and the other, Wade Miley, was nothing special even in the minors.

Which should make the contrast here all the more impressive.

In nine starts between Double- and Triple-A this season, Bauer is 8-1 with a 1.60 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He's doing it against the best the minor leagues have to offer and in just his first full season as a professional.

But numbers tell only half the story with him. His approach to pitching is so cerebral that you'd think he spent more time honing his craft in the classroom than on the mound while at UCLA. Just check out his response to why he prefers fly balls to ground balls, as published in a recent interview with the Arizona Republic.

"Hitters are trained to hit the ball hard on the ground. Fly balls are bad. You don't want to hit the ball in the air. Hit the ball on the ground. Pitchers are taught to get them to hit the ball on the ground. Something's got to give. Hitters and pitchers can't both want the same thing. And ground balls have a much higher chance of producing a base runner. You've got to field the ball, throw the ball and field the ball again. That's three things you have to do. A fly ball you just have to catch it. A strikeout you don't have to do anything. Ground balls statistically go for hits a lot more than fly balls."

But don't fly balls lead to home runs?

Most Traded Players (as of 5/21)
Player # of trades
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels 665
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants 571
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals 430
4. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees 425
5. Dan Haren, SP, Angels 412
6. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox 376
7. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals 371
8. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies 368
9. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals 362
10. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers 351

"I'm not scared of giving up fly balls," he continued. "If I do a good job of disrupting a hitter's timing, they're not going to be able to hit it out of the park. So, to me, strikeouts and fly balls are key. The more of those I can get, the better off I'm going to do. The amount of fly balls that I get aren't going to produce the amount of hits that some other pitchers' fly balls may produce. At least that's the theory. And, so far, it's proven out."

Yeah. Good theory. So good I wonder if he might approach CBSSports.com about writing this column in his spare time. I hope not.

I knew Bauer was a smart guy. I knew he incorporated concepts like biomechanics, effective velocity and pitch tunneling into his pitching technique. But when you see his actual thoughts in writing, you get the impression he's going to have the kind of career that changes the way everyone looks at pitching.

Maybe if he had marginal stuff, you could dismiss his success as gimmicky, but the guy throws hard -- sometimes reaching 97 or 98 with his fastball -- and has exceptional break on his curveball. It'd be like if you combined Greg Maddux's headiness with A.J. Burnett's pure stuff ... and then hid behind a chair for fear of what might happen if you looked directly at it.

In terms of Bauer's ability, the comparison you see over and over again is Tim Lincecum, who was so electric when he arrived early in the 2007 season that he ended up being a near ace for the Fantasy owners who plucked him off the waiver wire. Lincecum's biggest shortcoming then was the same one that has some people believing Bauer isn't quite ready for the big leagues now: too many walks.

Is it a concern? Sure, but I think it's overblown. Bauer's stuff, much like Lincecum's back then (apologies to today's Lincecum owners), is good enough that he should be able to survive a walk rate of 4.0 per nine innings, and chances are he won't even have a rate that high anyway. From his perspective, walks are more like variables in an experiment than mistakes. Hearing him talk, it's like he can put an end them whenever he wants.

"The majority of the time it's a symptom of me being aggressive and trying to punch people out, which, like we talked about earlier, the more punchouts you get the less chance you get of scoring runs," he told the Arizona Republic. "Everything I do feeds ultimately downstream to winning. That's the ultimate goal."

But won't all those walks and strikeouts lead to excessive pitch counts?

"Obviously, the more people I walk, the higher the pitch count and the less innings I throw. That's something that doesn't correlate to winning," he continued, explaining that while he normally tries to end each at-bat in four pitches, he has sometimes had to go to eight or so as he experiments with pitch sequences. "I can throw quality strikes. That's not a problem. In spring training, I walked one guy in 10 innings."

Sure enough, he did.

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Clearly, Bauer knows what he's doing, which is why he's the rare prospect who I'm willing to predict will have instant success in the majors. And now that he's on the highest rung of the minor-league ladder, he might only be two or three starts away from it -- maybe even less if Hudson suffers a setback or Trevor Cahill continues to battle his own shoulder issues.

You have a bench in your league? Good. Stop wasting time on the Ross Detwilers and Daniel Bards of the world and get Bauer on it. His hour won't last forever, and considering he's already 50 percent owned, it might be the only time you get.

In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value

Mike Trout, OF, Angels: When a player reaches the majors at age 20, the general assumption is he'll struggle for a couple weeks before inevitably returning to the minors for more seasoning. In Trout's case, it was especially true since that's basically what happened to him as a 19-year-old last year. But that little bit of time he spent getting his feet wet has apparently made all the difference. So far in 2012, his numbers have translated from Triple-A Salt Lake. He was hitting .403 there. He's hitting .355 now, with just as much speed and, as is often the case for a high-ceiling player getting an opportunity to see more strikes, more power. Over the last two weeks, Trout has performed like a top-30 Fantasy outfielder, and given his talent, you have no reason to believe it'll end anytime soon.

Matt Carpenter 3B/1B/OF, Cardinals: With Allen Craig (hamstring) and Lance Berkman (knee) both forced to the DL over the weekend, the Cardinals went from having too many corner infield-outfield types to not enough. Or perhaps just enough if you count Carpenter among the list of viable starting options, and he has given you no reason why you shouldn't, compiling an .845 OPS in part-time duty. Of course, Matt Adams is also in the mix, but the Cardinals have enough holes in their lineup that Carpenter should still get to play more often than not against right-handed pitchers. Though he struggled in a similar role when Craig and Berkman were both sidelined earlier this season, he has since come around with a .348 (8 for 23) batting average and two home runs over his last nine games. With his extra-base pop and on-base ability, the rookie should be a serviceable corner infielder in mixed leagues.

Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics: Colon was the talk of the baseball world at the start of 2011, submitting to an unorthodox procedure to help him recapture his lost form. But if he ran out of steam then, at age 38, you had to expect he would again this year, at age 39. Apparently this time, it took only six starts. Now the hot waiver pickup who was going eight innings with ease in March and April has given up 36 hits in 19 innings over his last four starts. Considering his average fastball velocity has dropped a mile per hour or two during that stretch, it's probably not just a matter of him needing to locate his pitches better. He was worth a shot early, but you should feel comfortable letting him go in standard mixed leagues.

A.J. Ellis, C, Dodgers: Ellis was never considered a top catching prospect. He didn't have the all-around offensive ability of a Devin Mesoraco or the raw power of a Wilin Rosario. But one thing he could always do is walk. Boy, could he walk, compiling a .406 on-base percentage over nine minor-league seasons. So what, then, is so unsustainable about his numbers now -- numbers that have made him the ninth-ranked catcher in standard Head-to-Head leagues? It's not like he's homering every other day. No, it's the .446 on-base percentage that's carrying him. Maybe if he was doing something he'd never done before, you could dismiss a player with his lack of pedigree, but because walks are as natural to him as they are to Jonathan Sanchez, you should feel pretty good about starting him in a standard mixed league.

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Addison Reed, RP, White Sox: Reed's ascension to the closer role came with little fanfare, which he ensured by having his worst outing of the season -- the only one in which he allowed any earned runs -- on the same weekend the world learned the White Sox had a vacancy at the position. Since then, he's a perfect 2 for 2 in save opportunities, with no other member of the White Sox bullpen even getting a look. He's well-suited for closing, having filled the role at San Diego State when Stephen Strasburg was still there, and his strikeout rate -- 12.8 per nine innings in 79 appearances between the majors and minors -- combined with his (apart from that one appearance) stellar control should make him just as effective in the majors. Don't be among the Fantasy owners still sleeping on him in 50 percent of leagues.

Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners

Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals: Though Matt Carpenter figures to see a boost in at-bats in the short term, Adams will be the bigger beneficiary of Berkman's ACL in the long run. He's Berkman's eventual successor at first base, after all, and considering he was hitting .340 with nine homers and a .978 OPS at Triple-A Memphis at the time of his promotion, the Cardinals might as well give him a shot to seize the job early. His power potential makes him worth an immediate flier in NL-only leagues, if nothing else, and considering he was in the lineup over Carpenter on Sunday, he deserves some attention in mixed leagues as well.

Brad Peacock, SP, Athletics: Peacock was considered a near miss for a rotation spot coming out of spring training, yet the Athletics' decision to replace the injured Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) with Graham Godfrey is now the third time they've passed over Peacock for a rotation spot since then. Of course, maybe the fault is more the pitcher's than the organization's. After all, his top-prospect status was more a result of his eye-popping numbers in the minors last year than his stuff. Right now, he has a 4.17 ERA and 1.30 WHIP at Triple-A Sacramento -- not exactly eye-popping. Peacock will still likely get his chance at some point this season, but considering his numbers have come back down to earth this year, he might not be the keeper option you perceive him to be.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs: Though the Cubs have previously said they'd prefer to keep Rizzo at Triple-A Iowa for most of the season, his .346 batting average, 14 home runs and 1.106 OPS in 156 at-bats there are apparently too impressive too ignore. Manager Dale Sveum said the team would look into promoting him in June, though maybe just as a DH option for an interleague series. Once they see him, though, chances are they'll have a hard time sending him back down. Bryan LaHair is capable of playing the outfield, and it's not like Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus are mainstays in left and right field. If you can afford to stash Rizzo for a few weeks, make your move for him now.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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