What to expect from Bauers with Rays

June 7th, 2018

The Tampa Bay Rays announced Wednesday that they would promote first baseman-outfielder from Triple-A Durham to the big leagues ahead of Thursday's contest against the Mariners.
Already a member of the Rays' 40-man roster, Bauers, the Rays' No. 5 prospect and No. 55 on the Top 100, is receiving his first callup after a solid start to his season in Triple-A. In 52 games with Durham, Bauers posted a .279/.357/.426 batting line with five home runs, 14 doubles and 10 stolen bases.
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While those numbers may not jump off the page, they do underscore the 22-year-old Bauers' overall consistency at the plate -- a quality that has enabled him to make a relatively unimpeded rise through the Minors.
A seventh-round selection by the Padres in the 2013 Draft out of Marina (Calif.) HS, Bauers proved he was advanced during his pro debut and made the jump to full-season ball the following year at age 18, hitting .296/.376/.414 with 29 extra-base hits including eight home runs for Class A Fort Wayne en route to postseason All-Star honors in the Midwest League.
Bauers' impressive performance, in a league where he was more than three years younger than the average player, put him on the Rays' radar, and the club acquired him from the Padres as part of the 11-player, three-team trade in December 2014 that sent to San Diego and Steven Souza Jr. to Tampa Bay.
Bauers' first season in the Rays' system was nothing short of a success. Splitting the season between Class A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery, the then-19-year-old produced a combined .272/.342/.418 batting line while totaling 11 homers, 32 doubles and 74 RBIs in 128 games. He then put a bow on his campaign with a strong showing as the youngest player in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
Spending all of 2016 back in the Southern League, Bauers continued to make strides at the plate by hitting .274/.370/.420 with a career-best 14 home runs and 78 RBIs while appearing in 135 games. He also recorded 10 stolen bases and ranked second in the circuit with 73 walks.
The Rays gave the fast-rising Bauers an extended look in big league camp the following spring, and he made the most of the opportunity by hitting .371 with four homers and 13 RBIs over parts of 17 games. That success followed Bauers to Triple-A Durham in 2017, when he slashed .263/.368/.412 with another 13 homers and 31 doubles as well as an International League-best 78 walks despite being one of the circuit's youngest players.
A 6-foot-1 left-handed hitter, Bauers has long showed a knack for barreling the ball with a compact, clean swing that fuels his use of the whole field. A .276 hitter in 606 Minor League games, Bauers projects for an above-average bat at the highest level, one capable of hitting .280-plus with perennially high on-base rates thanks to his patient approach.
While said approach does result in many deep counts as well as some swing-and-miss tendencies for Bauers, whose strikeout rate jumped from 15.3 percent in Double-A to 19.5 percent last year in Triple-A, he's repeatedly balanced his uptick in whiffs with excellent walk rates (13.6 percent in 2017). What's more, Bauers' instincts as a baserunner allow his average speed to play up, and with at least 10 stolen bases to his name in three straight seasons, he's proved adept at reading pitchers and picking his spots to run.
Bauers' ability to hit for power is the one facet of his game that's yet to truly develop. He has made gains on that front in each full-season campaign, surpassing double-digit homers in each of the past three seasons, and scouts believe some of his doubles will begin to clear fences as Bauers learns to hit the ball in the air more consistently and tap into his above-average raw power to his pull-side. If it all clicks, Bauers could hit 15-18 home runs, perhaps more, annually.
After manning first base exclusive early in his career, Bauers spent much of 2016 and '17 in the outfield after taking to the new position quickly in the Arizona Fall League. However, the Rays' decision to deal to the White Sox last July opened the door for Bauers to return to his natural position, where he's an athletic defender and smooth around the bag with a slick glove and average arm strength.
Bauers now gives the Rays a left-handed-hitting first baseman to complement righty C.J. Cron after it was announced Thursday that Brad Miller, the club's previous left-handed option at first base, had been designated for assignment to clear a spot on the active roster for Bauers.
Sure, Bauers doesn't possess the type of power typically associated with an American League first baseman -- or at least not yet -- but there's little doubt among evaluators that his pure hitting ability and mature approach will make him an everyday contributor for years to come.