Is Trevor Bauer Ready to Be an Impact Pitcher?

The Cleveland right-hander was pulled after six no-hit innings on Thursday, mixing dominant stuff with his trademark wildness. What's to come in 2015?

Ever since he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Trevor Bauer has oozed with potential.

Hey, the 24-year-old has electric stuff. He features a fastball that sits around 93-94 mph and has a curveball that can be devastating to hitters, to go along with a serviceable changeup and slider. And for the first time in his career last year, he managed to stick with the big club for the majority of the season, making 26 starts for the Cleveland Indians. Along the way he went 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA with 143 strikeouts and 60 walks in 153 innings.

On Thursday, Bauer was brilliant, pitching six innings of no-hit ball, with 11 strikeouts. However, his old bugaboo, the walk, forced his pitch count way up, 111 pitches in just those six innings. That forced manager Terry Francona to remove him from the game before the act was done, and Cleveland would go on to lose the combined no-hitter with two outs left to go.

But that doesn't detract from a performance that showed the potential many hoped they'd see from Bauer when he was drafted third overall.

Of particular note is what appears to be a more devastating two-seam fastball that froze hitters all game long. I mean, look at this thing.

Now, to be fair, it's important to remember he was pitching against a Houston Astros lineup that swings and misses enough for facility maintenance to leave the air conditioner off for most of the game. Yes, Houston has power, but they also have trouble making their bats hit pitched baseballs.

That being said, 11 strikeouts in six innings of work, even if five walks were included, is impressive.

Certainly, Bauer would be a more effective pitcher if he learned to be more economical with pitches and control his pitch count. Throwing 111 pitches in six innings of work on a regular basis is not sustainable. But what Bauer did feature on Thursday was elite strikeout stuff that, and if he can continue to make strides with his control, that could make him a dominant starter.

That would certainly increase his fantasy value, which at the moment has probably been given a slight boost. Fantasy owners in search of strikeouts may jump on the chance to acquire Bauer in the hopes of finding a cheap arm who can pile up some strikeouts. Of course, that will come at the expense of innings and walks and probably ERA as well.

But if Bauer has truly discovered an improved two-seam fastball that will increase his strikeout total, he'll be able to work out of more jams, give up fewer runs, and make himself a truly valuable fantasy option. Our projections see Bauer finishing the season with a 4.34 ERA, 146 strikeouts and 67 walks in 163 innings, virtually identical to last year's numbers.

Thursday's performance provides hope that maybe those projections will be on the conservative side, and that the promise he had when he was first drafted has arrived. Bauer has always had a strikeout rate that offered hope of true upside, but also had a walk rate that tempered expectations.

While I certainly wouldn't break the bank to go get him, other than maybe in AL-only leagues, he is a pitcher to watch over the next few starts.