Inside the Projections: Jose Bautista

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits his 50th home run of the season in his first at bat in their MLB American League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Toronto September 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Jose Bautista: 3B/OF

2011 Projection

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

HR

R

RBI

SB

508

0.242

0.357

0.569

0.926

33

89

92

5

To say 2010 was a breakout year for Jose Bautista would be an understatement. He had shown flashes on 20-plus home run power in the past, but the jump to an AB/HR rate of 10.5 from 25.8 in 2009 has everyone scratching their heads.  

Bautista did make some big adjustments in his approach late in the 2009 season. As the season went along, Bautista began pulling the ball more and focusing less on line drives and more on trying to lift the ball out of the yard. He hit 10 home runs in September/October, only two of which weren’t pulled to right. His AB/HR rate that month was 10.9.

It would appear based on his September/October of 2009 and continued home run frequency in 2010 that his transformation into a power hitter is legit. However, such jumps in power are difficult to repeat. 

In 2008, Prince Fielder went from 28 home runs to 50. The following season, Fielder would only muster 34 long balls. Fielder was 24 in 2008 (Bautista is 29) and there was an assumption that Fielder would hit for big-time power when he was a prospect. While Bautista was no slouch as a prospect, he wasn’t expected to ever be a 50-plus home run threat.

Since Bautista has never flashed the ability to maintain such a good AB/HR rate until the 2010 season, it is difficult to simply expect him to do it again.

I assume that his new approach will result in good power in 2011, but a sizable regression from 54 home runs is likely. If Bautista hits fewer home runs in 2011, his RBI and R totals will also fall. Given his pull-happy, fly ball approach, there is a lot of risk in his AVG. His .260 AVG in 2010 was also a byproduct of his increase in home runs. From 2008 to 2009, Bautista hit only .237 with a combined 28 home runs. Some may look at his low .233 BABIP in 2010 and think his AVG has room to improve, but consider the fact that his line drive rate was only 14.4 percent and his fly ball rate was a very high 54.5 percent. The ball in play most likely to turn into an out is a fly ball, so his low BABIP is legitimized. Also, home runs do not count toward BABIP as they are not technically in play.

Given all of the factors mentioned above, it is hard to imagine Bautista coming close to repeating his 2010 value. His decent contact skills and good walk rate will make him more valuable in OBP leagues, but standard formats should take note and take caution when considering his likely inflated 2011 draft price.