Late Bloomin’ Jose Bautista
By now, we know the story of Blue Jays Jose Bautista. From having no baseball home to home run champion, the Toronto slugger is now being discussed as trade bait.
As a player who averaged 15 home runs in 125 games from 2006-2009, nobody expected back-to-back seasons where he averaged 155 games and 48 home runs. At the pinnacle of his value, he signed a five year extension for 64 million including an option for 2016. An acquiring team would be on the hook for two more seasons with an option for a third. To break even, Bautista would need to average three wins per season on a Major League field.
And while projecting three wins was easy just two seasons ago, Bautista has averaged just 105 games and 28 home runs in 2012-2013. Never known as a strong defender, most of his value is tied to a prodigious bat. Entering his age 33 season, Bautista’s prime is in the rear view. Pieces questioning whether or not he’s finished as an elite hitter have begun — even though his 162 game average was still 43 home runs.
Is the Bautista bandwagon still worth riding as a fantasy slugger, or is it time to sell like the Blue Jays might?
For me, Bautista will be a test of my shooting star theory when it comes to late blooming baseball players. Because he debuted at 23, it’s not a perfect example, but Bautista didn’t really establish himself until 25. That’s a little late for an impact guy. Now 33, I’m forced to believe the numbers will continue to erode and injury issues will continue. If Bautista was a better athlete, then maybe I’d be more apt to think he’s the exception and not the rule. He wasn’t and I don’t.
This doesn’t mean all is lost. Let’s say Jose Bautista plays 140 games which is healthy-ish. If he matches his 28 home run average from the last two seasons, that still has value. Only 15 hitters surpassed Bautista’s 2013 home run total.
In fantasy baseball, writers including myself use terms like boom or bust and buy or sell to draw lines in the sand. Readers love black and white arguments. With Jose Bautista, it’s not that easy. His days of 40-plus home runs are likely over. Thirty five is a stretch at this point. Steamer projections have him at 33 home runs in 130 games — still high for me. However, I fully expect him to produce home run totals in the 27-31 range.
Unfortunately, strong home run totals will come with a .260 average, 75ish runs and RBI and little speed. At that point, are fantasy owners paying more for the name or production? Will Brandon Moss match Bautista’s output? How about Mike Napoli? Adam Lind? Of course each of those names is more of a crap shoot compared to the guarantee of Bautista, but how much more is it worth paying?
In the Ottoneu Experts League, I expect Jose Bautista to go for $35-$40 at auction. For that money, you can grab Corey Hart for $15 and keep the extra money to invest elsewhere. For $5 to $10, you can take a shot on one of the other players mentioned. Buying Bautista is paying premium for name value. It’s a losing proposition even if he’s productive.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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