In our behind-the-scenes message board for the DRaysBay writing crew, Mat Germain and I were having a discussion about the best hitters from the 1990’s, based on a simple trivia question: Who led MLB in hits from 1990-1999?
I went through a litany of guesses: Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn... I wasn’t close.
Who could it be? Bichette? Biggio? Bagwell? Blargh!
Rafael Palmeiro was my next guess, he was No. 2.
The correct answer was 1B Mark Grace, a player who received no consideration for the Hall of Fame. I checked, he appeared on only 4% of ballots in his first year of eligibility in 2009, and consequently was no longer eligible in subsequent years.
I guess that makes sense, 55-WAR has long been the rule of thumb for Hall of Fame entrance, and Grace had only 45 in his career. Ron Santo had 70. Andre Dawson had 59. Adrian Beltre currently has 83 and counting.
So maybe Mark Grace wasn’t as legendary as I thought he was, but I pulled up the top result on Youtube of Grace just to watch him hit and wonder how this non-HOF first baseman led the majors in hits, and that’s when I had a moment of deja vu:
Where had I just seen that swing?
This week for sure, it might even have been sometime today.
It took me a moment, but it fell into my head eventually: it’s the Rays’ probable first baseman of the future. The kid whose talents precipitated a trade of a 2013 first round draft pick less than a week ago, and who hit an opposite field home run just yesterday, his tenth on the minor league season.
For comparison, here’s a video of that prospect launching a similar home run to Grace’s above last Tuesday:
Now, I trust, any person working in professional baseball would be nodding sagely at this connection, but I’m no scout, so please excuse me that it took this long to notice.
1B/OF Jake Bauers has the exact same dadgum swing as long-time Cubs 1B Mark Grace, the man who led the 1990’s in hits, in an era of some pretty great hitters.
I’m not sure this means anything about how Bauers abilities will translate to the majors, but it does make me believe just a little bit more in Jake Bauers swing.
MLB.com has assigned a scouting-grade of 55 to Bauers hit tool, and Fangraphs has assigned a future-grade of 60. Through 100 games in Triple-A, Bauers has a .271/.370/.424 slash line and 123 wRC+ with a 19.2 K%, 13.0 BB%, 10 HR, and 13 SB.