Bauer, Skaggs among D-backs pitching riches
PHOENIX -- During the offseason, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers decided to acquire a veteran starting pitcher to bolster his rotation. He traded right-hander Jarrod Parker to Oakland for right-handed starter Trevor Cahill.
Towers' decision was made easier because of the outstanding pitching depth available in the organization. Credit former D-backs executive Jerry Dipoto with being instrumental in creating one of baseball's deepest pitching organizations.
The 2011 First-Year Player Draft provided a veritable treasure trove of pitching riches for the D-backs. Right-hander Trevor Bauer was selected 3rd overall and right-handed pitcher Archie Bradley was taken 7th. Lefty Andrew Chafin was a supplemental first round pick. Finally, prospect Anthony Meo, another right-handed pitcher, was chosen in the second round.
Bauer has earned a great deal of attention. At the time he was selected, the D-backs were aware of Bauer's dedicated and unconventional training style. For example, as part of his preparation before a start, Bauer does long toss from left field to right field. He begins the process at short distances and moves further with each toss. Ultimately, he is throwing the ball across the entire outfield. When the ball is returned to Bauer for the lengthiest tosses, it passes through a "cut off" man. It really is remarkable to watch.
Bauer could bring the same type of buzz and panache to pitching as the late Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.
While Bauer doesn't talk to the ball, as Fidrych had been known to do, he does deploy unusual methods in his mechanics and preparation that he learns from studying and observation. While his approach may be a bit unorthodox, his repertoire and delivery show the results of his tireless effort.
Bauer calls upon a vast array of pitches in his arsenal. His fastball usually sits at the mid 90's range, but he is very capable of hitting the upper 90's when needed. At times, however, Bauer loses some command with the higher velocity fastballs. He also throws an extremely effective and efficient curveball, a sharply moving slider, a change-up, and a splitter. Generally, starting pitchers develop those pitches along the way in their career. For Bauer, he began his professional baseball life with those pitches clearly defined in his inventory.
There are scouts who believe Bauer is capable of pitching this year in the Major Leagues. At only 21, it may seem too soon in his career. However, he has shown the mound presence and the maturity to handle a role on the main stage. Now he needs experience facing quality hitters.
Having the ability to miss bats and strike out hitters is a major weapon. Bauer can do just that. Over two classifications in his rookie Minor League season, Bauer struck out 43 in 25.2 innings pitched. He also walked 12 and gave up 27 hits. His 1.519 WHIP and 5.96 ERA showed there was work to be done. And indeed, work has been done. In his first two starts at Double-A Mobile this season, Bauer has continued to have similar strike out and walk ratios, but the number of hits he has yielded has decreased. His WHIP has declined to 1.031 and he hasn't yielded an earned run in 10.2 innings of work so far. Granted, the sample is only two starts, but the improvement is evident.
Bauer brings a unique and crowd pleasing "flare" to the mound. He could become a fan favorite in Arizona. Before he pitches in Phoenix, he will be continuing his efforts at refining his work and becoming a pitcher with a consistent ability to retire opponents.
While Bauer offers the D-backs an exciting future as a right-handed starter, lefty Tyler Skaggs has the ability to ultimately join him in the D-backs starting rotation.
Skaggs was the "player to be named" in a trade D-backs acting general manager Jerry Dipoto completed with the Los Angeles Angels in July 2010. At that time, Dipoto acquired left-handed pitchers Joe Saunders and Patrick Corbin along with right-handed pitcher Rafael Rodriguez, and ultimately Skaggs, for Dan Haren. As a result of that transaction, Dipoto may have helped transform the fortunes of the D-backs franchise, if not just the pitching staff. Ironically, Dipoto now oversees the baseball operations of the Angels. He can reap the benefits of Haren as a star pitcher in his new organization. It was a classic baseball trade that helped both clubs as well as defined Dipoto's abilities as an astute talent evaluator and front office executive.
Skaggs is starting this season at Double-A Mobile along with Bauer and Corbin. As if that firing squad isn't enough, highly regarded right-handed pitching prospect Charles Brewer joins them in the rotation. That is one star-studded group.
Skaggs uses an effective, full-rotation curve ball as the centerpiece of his repertoire. He has the ability to add and subtract velocity on his fastball from the high 80's to mid 90's. As one can imagine, by changing the balance of the hitter by changing speeds on the fastball and then mixing in the knee-buckling curve, Skaggs can take control of at-bats, provided he maintains good control. To date in his career, hanging curve balls in the eyes of hitters has not been an issue. In fact, in 3 seasons he has yielded only 17 homers in 267 innings pitched. An effective slider and change-up complete his repertoire.
Skaggs has outstanding mound presence with maturity beyond his 20 years. He has a smooth, deliberate motion that is disrupted only during rare occasions when he rushes his finish.
Bauer and Skaggs, along with others in the D-backs' stable of outstanding prospect pitchers, represent the next generation of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They could join the reliable Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson in comprising an enviable rotation for years to come. Jerry Dipoto must be given tremendous credit for identifying such quality pitching during his days in the front office in Arizona.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.