Breaking Down Ranaudo, Bauer

LOS ANGELES—Two potential first-round draft picks—one for 2010 and one for 2011—squared off in the second day of the Los Angeles Regional on Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Junior righthander Anthony Ranaudo of defending national champion Louisiana State was beaten by UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, a talented and quirky sophomore righty. Supported by home runs by three members of UCLA’s deep pool of talented underclass position players, UCLA won, 6-3.

Ranaudo pitched six innings, allowing four runs on four walks and seven hits while striking out 10. Physically imposing at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Ranaudo fires a fastball that ranges from 91-94 mph, and adds an exceptional 79-80 curve. As with most amateur hurlers, he struggles with consistency on the breaking ball, but when Ranaudo finds the strike zone with that offering, it is nearly unhittable.

Not so with the fastball. UCLA is a fastball hitting club, and LSU attempted to get ahead of UCLA’s hitters and then entice them to chase the fastball up and out of the zone. Ranuado’s 10 strikeouts indicate that strategy worked—some of the time.

Bruins Cody Regis, Dean Espy and Jeff Gelalich, however, found a few straight four-seamers and almost hit them onto the nearby 405 freeway. For Gelalich, selected last year in the 41st round of the draft by the Phillies, it was his first collegiate home run.

Ranaudo’s frame, arm strength and curve make him an obvious first-round candidate on Monday. But organizations figure to be concerned with several issues:

First, Ranaudo experienced some elbow discomfort earlier in the season and missed playing time. Second, his 7.49 ERA entering Saturday’s game indicates that Ranaudo’s ability and results often don’t match up. Finally, his delivery is odd. Ranaudo’s arm action is restricted on the back end and short of full extension on the front end—far short of being the type of "free and easy" motion scouts prefer to see in prospects.

Bauer was outstanding Saturday, taking a 6-0 lead in the 9th before surrendering three runs. Bruins closer Dan Klein came to the rescue and finished off LSU. Bauer’s windup and delivery is a clone of Tim Lincecum’s. Unlike the Giants star, Bauer can’t consistently repeat his motion, and often falls behind hitters while running up an inordinate amount of three-ball counts.

Sources close to the UCLA program state that the Bruin coaching staff is attempting to get Bauer to change to a more compact, less elaborate delivery. That tactic makes sense, for it would allow Bauer to maintain his stuff while sharpening his command and reducing his pitch count.

No one needs to alter Bauer’s stuff. He fires an explosive 92-94 fastball, adds an excellent 81-82 change, and sprinkles in a 76 curve now and then. Bauer’s best pitch is his 84 slider, already a plus big league pitch and a portion of his arsenal that is blatantly unfair to college hitters.

Junior Rob Rasmussen will start for UCLA tonight as the Bruins try to wrap up this regional against the winner of the UC Irvine-LSU elimination game. The lefthanded Rasmussen is expected to be a third-to-fifth-round selection in the upcoming draft.