Scouting Jake Bauers, Newest Tampa Bay Rays Prospect
By Drew Jenkins
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays swung a potentially franchise-altering deal when they traded Wil Myers in a three-team deal with the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals. This deal netted a group of prospects, and now that the deal has been made official, it is time to digest the prospects they acquired. This past season, I saw newly-acquired first base prospect Jake Bauers on multiple occasions, and here is what I saw.
Bauers, 19, was one of the younger players in the 2013 draft when he was taken as a 17-year-old in the 7th round out of a California high school. He made his pro debut in the rookie Arizona League, hitting .282/.341/.374 with a 102 wRC+. Despite just average numbers, Bauers showed enough to be moved to full-season ball in the Low-A Midwest League this season.
Offensively, Bauers is advanced beyond his years. He has a smooth left-handed swing, and his mechanics are great for a teenager. Bauers hits with an open stance and features a slight, but still smooth, leg kick. His only significant flaw is that, on occasion, he can get too far out on his front side and allow his front shoulder to open up too early. This can hurt his coverage of the outside part of the plate at times, but this is not a huge flaw and it should be fixable as he moves up the ladder.
With his swing, Bauers generates plenty of contact. That is evidenced by the fact that he hit .296 in the Midwest League last year. However, at this point, Bauers is geared to hit more line drives in the gaps than balls over the fence. His raw power is not particularly impressive either, and it will likely grade out as a tick above-average as he matures, though there isn’t a ton of room to add to his 6’1”, 195 pound frame.
Bauers should hit for gap power and potentially 15 home runs per year, but he will never be the type to hit 30-homer hitter that first baseman are usually expected to be. He slugged .414 with a .118 ISO last year, both decent marks but also nothing too special.
Bauers already has an advanced knowledge of hitting, and he got on base at a .376 clip last season. His 80-51 K-BB ratio was impressive in 112 games last year, and, with a little bit better recognition of breaking balls, that could get even better.
Bauers’ overall offensive package is solid, and he projects to hit for a good average and on-base percentage with decent power moving forward. Plus, the fact that he is already so advanced means he is more likely to reach his potential than your average 19-year-old prospect.
Defensively, Bauers is already an above-average defender. While he does not have great athleticism, the same baseball IQ that helps him at the plate translates to the field to give him great instincts and allows him to get the most out of his underwhelming range. Bauers has good footwork around the base, which is often a struggle for younger first basemen. He also has a slightly above-average arm.
The best comparison for Bauers seems to be James Loney with potentially a little bit more power. He does not profile incredibly well for a team that is looking for power out of their first baseman, but his contact, on-base abilities, and defense help make up for it. His great feel for the game also gives him a high floor, and it means that he will be trusted with an assignment to High-A Charlotte in 2015 despite the fact he will play the whole season at age 19.
Jake Bauers is one of the least significant piece of the return for Myers and co., but in classic Rays fashion, he could still turn out to be a solid part of their future. Once again, the Rays have done a good job of finding value in a lessor-known prospect, and we will have to see if Bauers can take the opportunity with his new organization and run with it.