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Jake Bauers’ Impressive Spring

#RakeBauers, aka Some Guy, has made his presence felt

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday Jake Bauers received the inevitable news that he was reassigned to the Durham Bulls to start the season. As a young man who has just turned 21 this off-season, isn’t on the 40 man roster, played a single game in AAA, or perhaps most importantly doesn’t have a single day of MLB service time this is the outcome everybody should have expected.

This is the first spring that Bauers has spent with the major league camp, but he did get into a few games last spring. He looked over matched in 10 plate appearances where he hit .100/.100/.200 with four strikeouts and no walks.

What a difference a year makes. With the World Baseball Classic extending the already long spring training there have been more opportunities for young players to get playing time. Bauers has taken advantage of the opportunity.

In 43 plate appearances he’s hit .371/.465/.857 with 4 homers, three doubles, a triple, 13 runs batted in, and 10 runs scored. He has drawn 7 walks while only striking out 4 times. He leads Rays batters in almost every category.

We have to take a step back as spring stats don’t mean a lot. The at bats come against pitchers with a wide variety of talent or lack thereof. The major league pitchers’ goals are to get everything ready for opening day and not to get results in spring. But still, all hitters face the same set of circumstances, but not all hitters end up with the Bauers slash line.

Bauers arrived in the Rays organization in the winter of 2014. He was aggressively assigned by the Padres and that continued when he joined the Rays. In 2015 as a 19 year old he was assigned to High-A Port Charlotte and received a mid-season promotion to AA Montgomery.

In 2016 Bauers repeated AA, but was still one of the youngest players in the league.

While his defensive home is uncertain, there is not doubt that he can hit. He hit .274/.370/.420 and 132 wRC+ in AA last season. There has been criticism that he won’t hit for enough power for 1B, but he did hit 14 homers while adding 28 doubles and a triple.

For a man this young it isn’t unreasonable to expect some doubles to turn into homers as he strengthens. But power isn’t what drives his bat. He walked 12.6% of the time last season while only striking out 15.3% of the time last season. His contact should make him a good OBP contributor with the ability to punish mistakes.

Bauers Pauer

There are so many things that have stood out this spring, but none more than the some of the monster home runs that should quiet his critics.

Just take a look at these majestic home runs.

Two of the four homers have video available through the Rays Twitter account. The first was an absolute blast in a lefty vs lefty situation.

The second had Mat Latos hanging a pitch that Bauers was able to turn on a line that cleared the fence.

A strong OBP contributor that can hit around 20 homers a year has substantial value.

When will Bauers join the MLB club?

This is a loaded question. It’s only spring training and he has to continue to do what he’s done in the minors to this point, but I’m starting to get the feeling he could see action this summer.

When spring started I thought Bauers was the least likely to get a call up among the Rays top AAA prospects. I still think Willy Adames and Casey Gillaspie are one step closer than Bauers to getting a call.

Part of this is due to Adames and Gillaspie already being on the 40 man roster while Bauers won’t have to be added until next winter to protect him from the rule 5 draft.

Part of the reason that he won’t start the season in the majors is because of service time considerations, but that is ok. The goal isn’t to put your absolute best team on the field on opening day. The 162 game season is a grind and having a guy like Bauers in Durham to fill in for under performance or injury is important.

If Bauers continues to progress he will force himself into the Tampa Bay Rays lineup sooner rather than later.