Cincinnati Reds: Trevor Bauer should emerge as ace in 2020

Trevor Bauer had a rocky start to his career with the Cincinnati Reds. However, with a full offseason under his best, he could be the team’s ace in 2020.

Trevor Bauer had a rough transition from Northeast Ohio to the Queen City. After his trade from the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline last season, a lot of fans expected great things from the former All-Star. Unfortunately, Bauer never really got going during his first season with the club. Look for 2020 to be a much different story.

If there’s one thing during his brief time in Cincinnati that fans have learned, it’s that Trevor Bauer is his own worst critic. Knowing this, the right-hander can’t be overly pleased with his performance over the final games of the 2019 season.

After starting the year going 9-8 with a 3.79 ERA in 24 games with the Indians, the California native won just two games in 10 starts with the Redlegs. Bauer’s ERA ballooned to 6.39 in 56.1 innings of work with his new ball club. That was not the results that fans, nor Bauer, were looking for.

Bauer’s numbers were up across the board. In addition to an irregularly high ERA, Bauer’s strikeout rate was down, his walk-rate was up, and so was his HR/9. Bauer’s strikeout-rate fell from 30.8% in 2018 to 27.8% in 2019. According to FanGraphs, Bauer’s walk-rate rose slightly from 8.0% in 2018 to 9.0% last year.

The biggest concern, however, may have been the long ball. After giving up just nine home runs during his 2018 in Cleveland, Bauer surrendered a career-high 34 home runs last season. His 1.44 HR/9 was the highest os his career since 2013. Bauer was sixth in all of Major League Baseball in terms of home runs allowed.

But, the past is the past, and Trevor Bauer has an unbelievable skillset on the mound. In addition to his 94-MPH fastball, Bauer throws an array of pitches ranging from a slider to a cutter to curveball, and probably four other pitches that we’re not even aware of. Bauer is a sage when it comes to gathering information and applying it to his game.

The Cincinnati Reds have really expanded their pitching department this offseason, with a big focus on analytics. Kyle Boddy, the founder and owner of Driveline Baseball, joined the Reds in October to be their Minor League Director of Pitching Initiatives/Pitching Coordinator.

Boddy joins highly-regarded pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who became well-respected throughout Reds Country last season. Seeing the improvements of pitchers such as Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, and Sonny Gray showed that Johnson’s methods work. Assistant pitching coach Caleb Cotham deserves a lot of credit as well.

With the emphasis on the sabremetrics side of pitching, expect more great things from the Cincinnati pitching staff in 2020. Gray and fellow starter Luis Castillo, established themselves as frontline starters in the Reds rotation. I’d expect La Piedra to get the ball on Opening Day again next season.

That said, don’t be so quick to label Castillo as the Reds best pitcher. In fact, from where I’m standing currently, I think it’s actually Sonny Gray. However, in terms of raw ability, Trevor Bauer may outdo them all. We’ve seen Bauer at his best. Two years ago, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young race.

Next: 3 non-roster invitees to watch this spring

I’m expecting a bounce back season from Bauer in 2020. Being a free agent next offseason will certainly give the 28-year-old motivation. Suggesting on more than on occasion that he never plans to sign a multi-year agreement, a successful season in 2020 could land Bauer a phenomenal one-year deal next winter, be it with Cincinnati or elsewhere.