In 2008, Jose Bautista was traded from the lowly Pittsburg Pirates to the lowly Toronto Blue Jays for Robinzon Diaz (currently with the Los Angeles Angels). Diaz isn’t a fantastic prospect, as he’s been inked to four different minor league deals in four seasons. Clearly, nearing the end of the 2008 season, the Pirates thought Bautista had reached his plateau, which at the time looked something like this: 75, 15, 50, 5, .240. He put up similar numbers with the Jays in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. With those 392 at bats he managed just 16 homeruns and a .232 BA. As a fantasy player, Bautista was irrelevant, if he ever even was relevant.
Since the 2009 season, no player’s stock has risen higher than appropriately nicknamed “Joey Bats”. In 2010, his year 29 season, he merely racked up 124 RBI and nearly hit more homers (54) than he had in his entire career to that point (59). To say Bautista’s 2010 value was Herculean would be an understatement. Going into the 2011 season, there were many skeptics, me being one of them, but he did it again: 43 HR and a .301 BA to go with it.
What was his secret? According to the club they tweaked his swing, identifying a huge hole that other hitting experts had missed. While this seems like a valid explanation, fantasy owners always need to be weary of a huge spike in numbers. When a player does what Bautista has done over the past two seasons (especially considering the arc of his career), usually there are whispers of steroids or some form of performance enhancers. Now, he’s never been linked to any wrongdoing, but when you analyze the numbers and know what kind of game baseball is, in your heart of hearts, what seems more likely: that in two years Joey Bats totaled 214 runs, 97 home runs, and 227 RBI because he fixed his swing, or he started using an illegal substance? I know which I’m leaning towards.
But regardless of how he’s putting up numbers, he’s still putting up numbers. And there’s no reason to believe that 2012 will be any different. Go ahead and chalk him up for 100, 40, 100, 10, .280, and that might be a low projection. I think the Pirates would trade every single Pedro Alvarez that they have to get Jose back.
In all formats, he’s easily a top-five pick and the best three-bagger by far.