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The Power Of Bauer: Evaluating the D-backs Phenom's Fantasy Prospects

In this week's column, Cody Ulm tries to find the perfect time to grab Trevor Bauer while looking ahead at what his impact could be for your fantasy squad this season.

March 20, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (61) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
March 20, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (61) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The man. The myth. The American pitching legend.

Trevor Bauer has been on the tip of seemingly every fantasy nerds' tongues since he was taken third overall in the MLB First-Year Player Draft exactly 366 days ago today. In my make believe baseball league alone he's been picked up and dropped close to twenty times after being drafted as a late round flier.

And all it took was one, single tweeted word yesterday to have fantasy owners scrambling to put in their waiver claims for the 21-year-old strikeout machine: "soon." "Soon" is what CBS Sports senior baseball writer Dan Knobler is hearing in regards to when Bauer will be called up to the bigs.

So I have two words for those who are wondering when is the right time to pick up the man who scouts anointed "Tim Lincecum Jr.": right meow.

Now what is so damn funny? Do I look like a cat to you boy? This is not a laughing matter. In fact, if you have access to some sort of time machine, get in it and go back to last Monday to put in a waiver claim because Bauer is the type of acquisition that can be the difference between making the playoffs or not.

Don't believe what I say? You got to be kitten me... If you want to know what you can expect from the former Golden Spikes winner than follow me through the jump. MEOW!

The Delicate Flower Known As Trevor Bauer

Okay, I promise that's my last Bauer rhyming pun...after I inform you that Trevor Bauer once drank 19 whiskey sours while successfully instructing a Airbus A380 from a control tower to safely land during a meteor shower. Word to your mother.

In reality though, Trevor Bauer is anything but delicate, especially by young pitcher standards. Across 73 1/3 minor league innings pitched in 2012, Bauer has accumulated a 9-1 record to go along with his 91 Ks and sparkling 1.96 ERA. And while he has only 12 starts as a pro, the man has proven he has the necessary arm strength after finishing out 2011, his last season at UCLA, with nine straight complete games.

Furthermore, Bauer is more battle-tested than you might assume. It was only a week ago that he went head-to-head with a Sacramento River Cats' lineup that featured Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes. The results? Six innings of two-run baseball in which he racked up eight strikeouts (including one against Cespedes).

As you can see, clearly inexperience isn't the issue at this point. Really, the sole reason he's currently not in a Diamondbacks uniform is because their rotation is at maximum occupancy. Barring injury, there's no way Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson or Trevor Cahill relinquish their positions and it would take Wade Miley stringing together at least four or five bad starts before they even consider moving him back to the pen.

The only viable way I see Bauer working his way into a starting position with Arizona is if they either decide to go with an unprecedented six-man rotation in June or find a trade partner for big Joe Saunders. In a perfect world, the D-backs would send Saunders and Patrick Corbin to Boston for Kevin Youkillis with the Red Sox agreeing to eat all of Youk's remaining salary and option buyout. Then again, in this perfect world of mine, I'm also married to Mila Kunis and the Diamondbacks are about to begin the dynasty that MLB historians will later refer to as "the fourteen-peat."

For me, those are the only two options. If they're motivated enough, it shouldn't be too difficult for the Diamondbacks to find a trade partner for a durable, inning-eating lefty. But the time is going to have to be now as Saunder's value will never be as high as it currently is. Moving Saunders to the pen first would surely inflate his ERA due to his soft-tossing ways, making it far more difficult to move his $6 million salary.

Moral of the story though is that Bauer's call up might not be as "soon" as Knobler described. I don't doubt for a second that Bauer's arrival is exactly the spark the Diamondbacks need to get back into the thick of the NL West race but logistically or economically. Even though Bauer has probably reached the point where he's safe from the whole "Super-Two" arbitration dilemma, Arizona must first find a way to maximize the return for Saunders.

Even with that in mind, I don't think it's out of the question that we could see Bauer up in the majors by the end of June if the D-backs don't right the ship fast.

As for projections, that's pretty hard to gauge at this point due to the uncertainty of the length of time he'll be in the MLB this season. If it's before the calendar flips to July, then ten wins aren't out of the question by any means. After all, Kennedy won 12 after the All-Star Break last season for this team and rookies Ian Nova and Vance Worley won eight and seven respectively after the same cutoff. Heck, even Josh Collmenter got six wins after the Mid-Summer Classic last year so I think it's safe to say that six is the bare minimum we can expect.

My only true concern with Bauer is that his WHIP will very well likely be higher than most expect. While his raw stuff is just about as good as it gets, his control isn't entirely there year as evident by five free passes and two wild pitches he issued in his second start in Triple-A against New Orleans.

If you we're to compare Bauer's 2012 BB/9IP (4.66) to a major league player, Justin Masterson's 4.48 average in 74.1 IP might be a little alarming considering he walks less against better competition and his ERA is 5.09 for the season. Of course, Bauer has also given up 22 less hits with one less inning under his belt but I'm just factoring in the worst case scenario into the equation.

The Bottom Line

If Bauer is somehow still available in your league and you have bench spots to spare, you have to grab him now (especially if it's a keeper league). After saving my first overall waiver claim since opening day, I spent it yesterday on Bauer because let's face it: you'd rather be one week early than one week late.

To give you some perspective, I'd drop Kyle Lohse, Ryan Vogelsong, Jason Vargas and even fellow D-back Wade Miley if it meant having the necessary room to stash Bauer at this point. That's how much of a valuable commodity I consider "the chosen one" [Note: I don't know if anyone has ever called Bauer that but I'm going to try to get it started].

Yes, it could be anytime from this Friday (his next scheduled Triple-A start) to late July by the time Bauer arrives. But when he does, boy will he sure be worth it.

Final Prognosis (AKA The Bare Minimum): 90 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 101 Ks, 9-4 record