There's no denying how good Bauer, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the organization, has been. The club's 2011 first-round pick tarted this season at Double-A Mobile and went 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in eight starts for the BayBears before his promotion to Triple-A Reno. He went on to give up one run in eight innings in his first start for the Aces, sending the D-backs' faithful into a frenzy.
There's also no ignoring the fact that Bauer has fewer than a dozen starts as a pro. He walked five batters and had two wild pitches for the Aces against New Orleans in his second Triple-A start. He threw only 42 of 89 pitches for strikes that game.
Pitching against Sacramento, a team that included Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez, in his third Triple-A start earlier this week, Bauer gave up two runs, struck out eight and issued four walks in six innings for the victory.
He threw 100 pitches against the River Cats, 56 of which were strikes. Overall, Bauer has struck out 84 batters in 67 1/3 innings this season.
"[Bauer] hasn't been in the Minor Leagues very long, and he's been rushed like we've never rushed anybody before, because of the stuff that he has and his ability to pitch," D-backs farm director Mike Bell said. "He has made some improvements. For me, it's not about improving stuff but more about the ability to manage game plans, getting us deep into games and giving us chance to win."
The D-backs would like to see Bauer make mechanical adjustments quicker when things are not going as planned during games. The ability to adjust on the fly could result in him pitching into the seventh and eighth innings more often.
Overall, Bauer has pitched at least five innings in each of his first 11 starts, going six innings twice, seven innings three times and pitching eight innings once.
"A lot has to do with logging more innings and facing better hitters," Bell said. "It will work itself out, and he's understanding how to correct those things."
The question remains: Is Bauer ready for the big leagues?
"I don't know, but I think he is pretty close. He's in Triple-A," Bell said. "There are other good pitchers with him at Reno, but I would imagine any time an opportunity comes up, I would think he would be in the conversation for something to happen. But ultimately, it's up to [D-backs general manager] Kevin Towers and [manager] Kirk Gibson. It's KT's call."
There's also no guarantee that Bauer would be Towers' first choice. The D-backs also have Barry Enright, Patrick Corbin, Charles Brewer and Joe Martinez at Triple-A. Highly-touted prospect Tyler Skaggs is at Double-A.