On Friday, the right-hander stepped out of that shadow in a huge way by being named the winner of the 2011 Golden Spikes Award.
Announced live on MLB Network, Bauer was chosen over Virginia's Danny Hultzen and Texas' Taylor Jungmann for the 34th edition of the award, given to the nation's top amateur baseball player by USA Baseball and sponsored by Major League Baseball.
"It's pretty awesome" said Bauer, the first UCLA Bruin to win the award. "Obviously you look at the list of guys who won it and it's a great list. But it you look back at all the people that have just been nominated for it, it's amazing the kind of talent that you're mentioned up there with. I never really thought of myself as that kind of high-profile type of guy. It's definitely surreal and an honor, for sure."
Humility aside, Bauer certainly pitched like a high-profile guy in 2011. Taking the ball every Saturday, after Cole, Bauer went 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA and 203 strikeouts over 136 2/3 innings. He walked just 36 and held opponents to a .154 batting average. Bauer also led the nation in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings while finishing fourth in ERA.
Not too shabby for an "undersized" right-hander who went undrafted out of high school.
"I can't even put into words how much it helped me, just being around guys on the staff and the players," Bauer said of his college experience. "The coaches taught me a whole lot about pitching. Just the intermediate step of learning how to handle myself off the field [was important]."
The announcement of the award was the culmination of a long process to find the nation's top amateur player. USA Baseball initially compiled a list of more than 200 candidates with the help of sports information directors across the country. From there, the 2011 Golden Spikes Award Watch List was unveiled in February. That list had 50 names on it and would also go on to include "rolling" nominations to ensure athletes who were playing themselves into consideration would be on the list.
At the end of May, the list was cut down to 30 names by USA Baseball officials. That list of 30 was sent to a voting body consisting of select professional baseball personnel, past USA Baseball National Team coaches, select members of the media, former USA Baseball sports information directors, and current USA Baseball staff -- close to 200 voters in total. Fan votes also entered into the equation to find the three finalists who were at the MLB Network studios on Friday for the presentation of the award.
"Trevor Bauer, Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann each exemplify what USA Baseball looks for in its Golden Spikes Award finalists, both on and off the field," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball executive director/CEO. "Trevor authored an incredible performance in 2011, and we are honored to present such a deserving player with the award."
The Golden Spikes Award has been quite an indicator of great things to come at the next level. The 2004 winner, Jered Weaver, started the All-Star Game for the American League this year, and he was joined on the AL roster by 2007 winner David Price. Rickie Weeks, who won the award in '03, was on the National League squad, as was '06 winner Tim Lincecum -- the pitcher Bauer is most often compared to. Alex Gordon ('05) has come into his own this year, and while Buster Posey ('08) and Stephen Strasburg ('09) are currently injured, Posey won the National League Rookie of the Year Award last year and Strasburg made a huge splash before needing Tommy John surgery. Last year's recipient, Bryce Harper, participated in this year's Futures Game and recently got bumped to Double-A.
"It's an incredible honor," Hultzen said. "You look at the guys who not only have won the award, but have been nominated for it, and they're MLB All-Stars and all that cool stuff. It's just an incredible feeling just to be a part of this."
With all three finalists being pitchers for the first time in the award's history, it was known this year's recipient would be a top arm. All three excelled and, as a result, the trio went in the top half of the first round. Hultzen was the No. 2 overall pick by the Mariners, Bauer went third to the D-backs and Jungmann was selected No. 12 overall by the Brewers. All three are still in negotiations with their respective teams and have yet to sign.
Bauer won the award, but the other two finalists were far from slouches. Hultzen pitched and hit for Virginia, going 12-3 with a 1.37 ERA and hitting .309 for the Cavaliers. Jungmann went 13-3 with a 1.60 ERA for the Longhorns.
"If you look around the nation, the kind of numbers people threw up on the pitching side are just kind of unbelievable," Bauer said. "We played in great conferences and played against really high-quality competition. It speaks to the depth of the talent pool this year."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. Joey Nowak contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.