Jake Bauers was not the headliner in the 2014 three-team trade that saw Wil Myers head to the Padres and Steven Souza come to the Rays. However, as this season progressed, Bauers has played his way into the top of Rays prospect rankings.
A first baseman by trade, Bauers's rise comes thanks to a impressive debut season in the Rays system. Bauers split the year between Class-A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery, where he had a cumulative batting line of .272/.342/.418 along with 11 home runs. This gave him an overall wRC+ of 123, which Fangraphs considers between "above average" and "great". He did all of this at 19 years old throughout the regular season, putting him at 3.6 years younger than the average player at Class A Advanced and 5.1 years at Double A.
At the plate, Bauers has what Keith Law of ESPN called an "advanced approach" even in 2014 when Bauers was an 18-year-old. On his power, Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America said "the power is there for him to smack 15-20 HRs and a lot of doubles." Belinsky noted the fact that Bauers is young and that his power is still developing, but he believes that it will translate into game power, which is reflected in BA's high ranking of Bauers. The next step is to see Bauers hit for power at the Triple A level and eventually the majors.
While Bauers was drafted as a first baseman, in the Arizona Fall League this offseason he experimented with the corner outfield spots as well. Belinsky also said there are "good reports on his outfield play in the Arizona Fall League" and that "he runs well and took surprisingly good routes to the ball in AZ." Bauers already had value at first with his hitting profile; adding versatility to his defensive abilities should only increase his stock.
Bauers could factor in the Rays' plans at either first or outfield since there is considerable depth at both positions. There are still hopes Casey Gillaspie pans out at first after his second-half injury and slump, and outfield remains one of the deepest positions both in the majors and the farm system. Where Bauers fits in looks like it will depend on the performance of other players at his positions.
Those of us here at DRaysBay seem to think highly of Bauers after his strong season with the aforementioned community No.3 ranking and being the 65% majority for minor-league first-base All-Star.
Bauers's arrival in the majors could be at some point in 2016; it largely depends on where he starts the season. If the club feels aggressive, they could try starting him at Triple-A in Durham and move him up to the majors late in the summer or for a cup of coffee in September. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he starts the year at Montgomery and ends the year in Durham if all goes well. Bauers will only be 20 years old when the 2016 season starts; the Rays shouldn't overplay their hand with what easily could become major-league talent.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animals.