Perhaps one of the most polarizing players for fantasy in 2021 projects to be Trevor Bauer . After winning the Cy Young Award, a social media blitz regarding his free agency and manipulating the market to garner a contract higher per year than rival Gerrit Cole landed Bauer in Los Angeles. Fresh off of a World Championship, the Dodgers value pitching. However, did they make a fatal fantasy mistake paying full price for a career year?

Despite only winning five of nine decisions, Bauer surged to career best ratios illustrated by his 1.73 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. His strikeout percentage spiked to 36-percent with a career low walk rate (6.1 percent). In spite of his underlying numbers remaining stable, namely his swinging strike percentage, contact rates and O-Swing (outside the strike zone) percent, the minuscule results occurred. Check out these tidbits of information from 2020 for Bauer:

- Led the National League in ERA, WHIP, opponents batting average (.159), fewest hits per nine innings (5.06), shutouts and complete games (2)

- Finished second in the NL in strikeouts (100)

- 10 of 17 runs against him in 2020 resulted via home runs

Level of competition factored in with the National League and American League Central divisions not boasting power offenses. Of his 11 starts, two against the Tigers and the Pirates plus one versus the Royals plus three facing the struggling Brewers lineup. Within these six starts, Bauer racked up four of his wins over 53 innings with 80 strikeouts, only nine earned runs (1.53 ERA) and a 0.77 WHIP in them. Compare this to his 2020 season:

- Bauer 2020: 5-4, 11 games started, 73 IP, 100:17 K:BB, 1.73 ERA, 2.94 SIERA, 0.79 WHIP, 36 K%, 6.1 BB%

Not displayed on purpose, Bauer also recorded season bests in strand rate (LOB percentage) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP), well below his career averages. In 2020, Bauer finished with a 90.9 strand rate, league average in the truncated season finished at 71.8 percent while Bauer owns a career 73.8-percent mark in the category. As for BABIP, league average in 2020 finished at .291 while Bauer's career pace of .294 sits slightly above it even with last year's outlier factored in. Suffice it to say, regression lies in wait for Bauer in 2021.

Transitioning to Statcast, Bauer yielded 158 batted ball events last year giving up 10 barrels (6.3-percent), an 88.5 MPH average exit velocity and 38-percent hard hit rate. Accompanying his tremendous gains in strikeouts, Bauer changed his pitch usage once again throwing more cutters and sliders while using fewer curves plus shelving the change-up. Here's his arsenal displaying all of his swings and misses from 2020:

Delving into these pitches a bit more deeply, note the spin rate changes of each at the end of the results:

- Bauer Four-Seam: 40.9-percent usage, 23.8 whiff percentage, 39.4 K%, 29.7 put away percent, spin gain 264 revolutions

- Bauer Cutter: 19.7-percent usage, 41.7 whiff percentage, 20 K%, 25.9 put away percent, spin gain 268 revolutions

- Bauer Slider: 16.5-percent usage, 33.7 whiff percentage, 32.7 K%, 23.4 put away percent, spin gain 205 revolutions

- Bauer Curve: 15.7-percent usage, 38.5 whiff percentage, 52 K%, 25.7 put away percent, spin gain 384 revolutions

While not being a scientist, Bauer gained, on average, 280 revolutions across his arsenal. Combined with weaker competition, a career season. Plus, Bauer notched a season best 15.8 pop-up percentage defraying the hard hit percentage increase. There's no denying in our present pitching environment, Bauer owns value in terms of being able to log innings with the ability to generate strikeouts. Weighing this against the outliers from 2020 needs to be baked into his projections compared to his present market value.

In an effort to expand his results, taking last year into account with the second half of 2019 provides more intel into his numbers:

- Bauer 2H 2019-through-2020: 8-11, 25 games started, 154 IP, 204:48 K:BB, 3.92 ERA, 3.50 SIERA, 1.10 WHIP, 32.3 K%, 7.6 BB%

Staying with the theme, Bauer recorded a .275 BABIP and 74 LOB percentage in this sample, much more maintainable than his results from last season's small sample surge. Bauer ranks sixth in strikeouts since the start of the second half of 2019 through 2020 as well. He's talented, overthinks with his arsenal and continually tinkers to gain an advantage. Assessing how he performs in 2021 remains the largest gray area since many look at recent results rather than the whole picture.

Over the last three years, Bauer's numbers stabilize even further and he ranks fifth in strikeouts, seventh in ERA while tying for eighth in WHIP:

- Bauer Last Three Years: 29-23, 73 games started, 467.1 IP, 581:156 K:BB 3.16 ERA 3.59 SIERA, 1.11 WHIP, 30.1 K%, 8.1 BB%

Bauer racked up a .275 BABIP and 74 LOB percentage in this sample. In order to evaluate him correctly, keep these rates in mind for the upcoming season. However, the premium on starters cannot be ignored.

Pitching prices continue to escalate in redraft leagues, causing many to reach in the late stages of the first round for one as an anchor. Although there's some volatility in Bauer's average draft position (ADP), check out his flow chart courtesy of the NFBC:

Since his signing with the Dodgers, Bauer seems to be settling in between picks 10-to-15 overall.  Taking all of this into account along with adjusting to a new locker room, here's Bauer's projection sets for 2021:

Not displayed, his WHIP ranges from the low tide of 1.17 by ATC projections with a high tide of 1.24 by THE BAT. His last three year rates sit below these (1.10) but Bauer faces stiffer competition in the National League West in comparison to last year. Formulate your plan on how to handle a pitching run in the first round and focus on the facts. Can Bauer repeat last year? Not a chance. Could he return value compared to investment cost? Not sure. Willing to find out but this analyst prefers to let someone else roster the talented, yet controversial pitcher for 2021. Choose wisely.

Statistical Credits

THE BAT courtesy of Derek Carty

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborksi - Game Notes