There may no more intriguing, yet equally frustrating, pitcher in MLB than the Indians’ Trevor Bauer. Now coming off his best season as a major leaguer, what is Bauer’s fantasy outlook in 2018?
There are many adjectives that could describe Trevor Bauer, yet the talented Indians’ righty continues to be the hardest player to predict. Take his 2017 campaign as a perfect example. In the first half, Bauer was an over 5.00 ERA pitcher, yet once the second half came, he pitched like one of best in the game. So what can fantasy owners expect in 2018?
Right out of the gate last season, Bauer struggled. In three out of the first four months of the season, he posted no lower than a 5.30 ERA. Still prone to blowups and bouts of wildness, Bauer was left on the fantasy free agent wire by the time July came around.
Yet, his last start in July, where he limited a red-hot Yankees offense to only one run over six innings, would spark a career-best run. Over the next 70 innings, and 11 starts, Bauer posted no higher than a 2.90 ERA. He even took that momentum into the postseason for the Indians, throwing eight innings of shutout ball versus the Yankees while striking out 11.
This is not the first time that Bauer has shown the tendency to have stark halves during a season. Yet, this was the first time we saw Bauer change-up his arsenal mid-season though. Now Bauer is one of the foremost “thinkers” on the mound looking for any mental edge possible, thus he continually experiments with his offerings.
However, Bauer began to shift to more breaking balls during the second half, and the results followed. His fastball still sits in the mid-90s, but it is as straight as an arrow, allowing batters to post a .303 AVG versus the pitch in 2017.
After July, Bauer backed off his fastball usage, throwing in below 38% of the time compared to well over 40% in the first half. Looking at his pitch usage, Bauer shifted to throwing his curveball more from the onset of 2017, throwing it 33% of the time. That was a 2% increase from the first half and 14% increase from 2016.
He also debuted a slider-type offering after July as well, throwing it 11% of the time. Batters could only square up his curveball to the tune of a .241 AVG, and his slider fared even better. Batters could not adjust to the pitch, and they only posted a .105 AVG against it.
Unfortunately, Bauer has plans to scrap the slider heading into 2018 in place of a pitch that moves more like a slurve. There are some that think that Bauer’s “slider” last season was nothing more than a modified cutter. If so, he can continue to feature that cutter/slider hybrid, but now develop a consistent third offering that can keep batters off balance even more.
Bauer is still hard to project because fantasy owners know the upside, but also the pitfalls. Another area that Bauer improved was his command. He has notoriously struggled with control in his career but lowered his BB rate to 8% in 2017.
Combine that with his arsenal adjustments, and this allowed him to strike out 196 batters, and post a career-best 26% K rate. If not for a couple outings out of the bullpen in Aug., Bauer would have easily eclipsed 200 K.
If there was ever a time to believe in Trevor Bauer, it is going to be in 2018. He showed career-best command, made proper in-season adjustments, and already has the raw stuff to miss bats. With a SIERA and xFIP below 3.80, it seems like this season is the time we see Bauer post a sub-4.00 ERA.
The Indians will be a tremendous team yet again in 2018, and Bauer will be a big piece of their hopeful success. There is no reason to think that based off what he showed to end 2017 that he cannot post something close to a 3.60 ERA/200 K type of line.