(Photo: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports)
2020 season age: 24 – Throws: Left – Bats: Left – Contract: – Pre-arbitration ($583,500) Spotrac Estimate
2019 in review: In 423 plate appearances Bauers posted a .683 OPS, compiling a slash line of .226/.312/.371 with 12 homers, 16 doubles and three steals. He split time between first base and left field and also played 24 games in Triple-A Columbus after the trading deadline where he managed a .776 OPS. It wasn’t a great first season in Cleveland for Bauers, who came over in the Yandy Diaz trade with Tampa Bay. The former top-100 prospect had a good half-season in Tampa Bay in 2018 before he seemed overmatched in the second half. He was put into left field on the opening day roster and was given a long leash, not sent to Triple-A until the Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig trades. After the season, Indians manager Terry Francona noted Bauers’ work routine, or lack thereof, was a detriment to his own success and as a habit in the eys of the club. It was mentioned that he lacked a consistent routine with his attitude changing based on the previous day’s results.
Beyond the stats: While many think Bauers has the athleticism to play the outfield, but defensive metrics across the board disagreed with his adaption to left field in year one. Statcast’s Outfield Outs Above Average had him at -7, with an even zero going back and coming in, but struggling to the tune of -5 going to his right, and -2 to his left. Fangraphs’ defensive runs saved had him at -3 mark in left field but only had -0.7 UZR/150. His expected batting average and slug were all in the bottom percentiles in baseball, struggling to make hard contact, and consistently.
Offensive impact: Bauers’ offensive struggles weren’t particularly platoon heavy in 2019. He had a .683 OPS against right handers and .682 against left handers. He walked a little less often against left handers but wound up with a better ISO (SLG%-BA) of .162 compared to .137. None of that was very good but he didn’t struggle with left handers any more than right handers. Bauers a good hitter in the minors despite not showing much power, but he didn’t strike out and could draw walks. He even showed solid speed in the minors as well. None of that has flourished in the majors so far except a solid walk rate. He really has average power with the hit tool being below average right now. He doesn’t profile as a great bat in the outfield but if he discovers his hit tool in the minors he can get to his average power and be a solid contributor offensively.
Defensive impact: As noted, things didn’t go well defensively for Bauers in his foray in left field. With his struggles going to his right, perhaps he had issues getting reads on the ball off of the bat. It’s something that can be improved upon and his sprint speed was in the 69th percentile, which assumes he has slightly above average speed, so maybe the athleticism is there. He might only turn out to only be an average defender in left field, but that’s likely where he’s going to be with Carlos Santana still at first base.
2020 role: It’s possible Bauers will have to battle Bradley Zimmer and maybe Daniel Johnson along with Greg Allen for a role to open the season in 2020. Oscar Mercado is locked into centerfield and Jordan Luplow holding down a spot against left handers, and maybe more, Allen, Zimmer, Delino DeShields are all options for the outfield as well. You can bank on DeShields being on the 26 man roster (that’s going to take some getting used to writing/saying). Bauers inconsistent routines may possibly play a factor, but he’s at least on equal footing as Zimmer’s decision not to play winter ball seemed to bother the Indians. The Indians don’t really give many chances for rookies to make the club out of spring training, save for Tyler Naquin in 2016, so Johnson already seems to have that going against him, which works for Bauers. It seems likely Bauers makes the roster unless Zimmer has a terrific spring or the Indians are hellbent on giving DeShields regular at bats.
Fantasy impact: There’s no reason to roster Bauers in any league no matter how deep, certainly not draft worthy even in AL only league’s. Keep an eye on what his role and the notes on him in spring training to see if he’s going to get at bats in the majors and if his routines have improved. If Bauers’ skills played out in the bigs, he could provide 20 homer, 10 steal potential with an average that should hold strong, and he’d be a little better in an OBP league. But still, right now he’s a waiver wire add, not someone you’re going to want to draft.