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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Trevor Bauer

From a yeoman's work in extra innings to secure a franchise record to a drone-induced, bloody finger incident in the postseason, Trevor Bauer rode a roller coaster of highlight moments in 2016. What's in store for the enigmatic right-hander the upcoming season?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Trevor Bauer, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-26 season -- Contract: Avoided arbitration with a 1-year/$3.55 million deal (Free agent in 2021)

2016 In Review: Last season could be classified as Bauer's best season of his career from a pure value standpoint as the right-hander compiled a 2.7 WAR in 2016 as he posted a career high 12 wins and 190 innings pitched. While his ERA is still north of four, the UCLA product has proven to be more durable and reliable as a starter as the years have gone on. On the field, he had his moments last year with the top highlight being the five innings he pitched in relief to help the Indians claim their 14th straight win to set a new organizational record. Off the field was another mixed bag of antics that both endeared and frustrated fans from his constant Twitter trolling to the finger laceration he suffered while working on one of his drones, leading to the now infamous scene on the mound in the ALCS that conjured up memories of Curt Schilling from 12 years prior. The mechanically-minded hurler now heads into 2017 hoping to not only replicate, and potentially improve on his 2016 performance, but also to make sure the mark he leaves on a playoff mound isn't just his own corpuscles.

Versus Right-handers: Bauer's 2016 splits fell pretty closely in line with his career marks as right-handed hitters once again had a bit more luck going up to bat against him posting a .257/.333/.399 slash line versus the .239/.305/.690 mark lefties had against the southern California native. One irregularity from his career norms in 2016 was the shift in his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Right-handers have typically had a higher ratio against Bauer at 2.26, which is 22 points higher than what southpaws have posted against him. Last season, however, that mark against right-handed batters dropped to just 1.76 as they had more success drawing walks against the former first round pick accounting for 41 of the 70 free passes he had issued.

Versus Left-handers: Left-handers have always had a tough time against Bauer batting just .238 against him in his career with a .718 OPS, although usually they manage to draw more walks and strike out less than their right-handed counterparts. Last year, the tables were turned somewhat in that department as lefties drew just 29 walks and fanned 96 times, making up well over half of the right-hander's 168 total punchouts in 2016. Bauer's career strikeout-to-walk ratio against left-handers is 2.06. Last season, it jumped to 3.31, marking the highest single-season split in his five years in the big leagues. While most of his other splits have remained fairly steady throughout his career, strikeout-to-walk ratio is one that has fluctuated from both the right and left-handed batter's boxes.

Pitch Mix: Bauer has always claimed to have a myriad of pitches to choose from. However, since coming to the Indians, the suggestion has been made repeatedly to simplify that arsenal. Well, 2016 may have finally brought about a true culmination of that concept as the right-hander eliminated his slider and focused more on his two-seam fastball and his curveball. While his strikeout rate remained largely unchanged at eight per nine innings, the 26-year-old saw significant improvement in his groundball rate, which improved to 48.7% from 39.2% in 2015. Also his flyball rate dropped from 40.7% to 30.8%. Bauer also features a fastball capable of topping out in the mid-to-upper 90s, a cutter and a changeup, but his two-seamer has proven to be a difference maker and relying more on his curveball is also paying off.

Fantasy Impact: While Bauer has proven to be more durable and reliable in recent years, there's still the issue of which pitcher you're going to get on any given night. You might see the guy who fans 13 against the one of the toughest lineups in baseball in Toronto last August or you'll see the pitcher who gives up six runs in back-to-back outings in mid-September. In the end, he'll be good for 25-30 starts a year and overall solid numbers and positive value. Fangraphs only has the right-hander making 23 starts in 2017, however, as both Steamer and Depth Charts project him going 8-8 with a 4.23 ERA and a WAR of 1.6. What will be worth watching next season is if the elimination of his slider continues to have a positive impact on his pitch mix and whether he can sustain his improved groundball rate.

Summary: The idea of Trevor Bauer becoming an ace pitcher may be fainter than when he was drafted third overall out of UCLA in 2011, but he's still gradually coming into his own as an above-average major league hurler and still has more potential to tap into. How much more is anyone's guess, but the more his game evolves towards a strikeout/groundball pitcher, the higher his ceiling could be. If anything, regardless of his off-the-field antics or chronic inconsistency, last season proved that Bauer will take the ball and try to pitch when asked regardless of the situation or whatever physically ails him at the time. Sometimes it works (the 19-inning win) and sometimes it doesn't (the bloody finger game), but that won't stop him from taking that mound.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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