Results tagged ‘ Pittsburgh Pirates ’
In many ways Adrian Beltre has had five distinct parts to his career: (1) Signing out of the Dominican Republic and his rapid ascension to the major leagues; (2) Inconsistency with the Dodgers; (3) MVP-caliber 2004 season and his massive contract with the Mariners; (4) Offensive struggles with the Mariners as he became a defensive stalwart; and (5) Signing with the Red Sox and offensive awakenings.
Adrian Beltre was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Dodgers in 1994 for $23,000 at the age of 15, in direct contravention of MLB rules, which require the signee to be at least 16 at the time of the signing. As a result, MLB suspended the Dodgers’ scouting operations in the Dominican Republic for a year, though they were allowed to retain Beltre.
Beltre did not make his state-side debut until 1996, when he debuted for the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. As the youngest player in the league, Beltre hit 307/406/586 across 68 games, mashing 14 doubles and 16 home runs. After being promoted to the San Bernardino Stampede of the high A California League, Beltre put up a 261/322/450 line across 63 games despite being the youngest player in the league by nearly two full years (he was 12 days shy of two years younger than Dennys Reyes, the next youngest player). After the season, prospect rankers raved about his batting eye, power, and defensive potential. Baseball America ranked him the #30 prospect in baseball, between Dmitri “Da Meat Hook” Young and Mike Cameron and lauding his potential.
In 1997, Beltre spent the season with the high A Vero Beach Dodgers of the offense-suffocating Florida State League, putting up a sparkling 317/407/561 line while hitting 24 doubles and 26 home runs, stealing 25 bases, and walking more times than he struck out (67-66). After the season, Beltre was on the short list of the top prospects in baseball. His offensive upside became even more apparent, though his defensive shortcomings became more apparent. However, many felt that he would become an average defensive third baseman with elite offensive output. Baseball America ranked Beltre the #3 prospect in baseball, behind only A’s uber-prospect Ben Grieve and Dodgers 1b/3b prospect Paul Konerko, though ahead of Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and Pirates 3b Aramis Ramirez.
In 1998, Beltre began the year with the AA San Antonio Missions of the Texas League, where the offensive onslaught continued, as Beltre hit 321/411/581 with 21 doubles, 13 home runs, and 20 stolen bases during the first 64 games of the season. Beltre showed his amazing eye and bat control with 39 walks and 37 strikeouts before being promoted to Los Angeles, where he struggled, hitting 215/278/369 as the youngest player in the Major Leagues by more than one full year (over Aramis Ramirez). Despite his struggles in the major leagues, his prospect stock did not decrease in the slightest, with many penciling Beltre into the middle of the Dodgers’ order for the next decade.
In 1999, Beltre’s first full season was much more successful than his previous, putting up a respectable 275/352/428 line (OPS+ 102) while hitting 27 doubles and 15 home runs. In 2000, Beltre had his best year yet, putting up a 290/360/475 line, as if the best was right around the corner. Unfortunately, Beltre seemingly regressed over the next three seasons, putting up a 265/310/411 line in 2001, a 257/303/426 line in 2002, and a 240/290/424 line in 2003.
In 2004, Beltre had a season that anyone trying to prove that the “contract year phenomenon” is real would love to use as an example. Beltre set career highs across the board, putting up a 334/388/629 line while hitting 32 doubles and 48 home runs, putting up an OPS+ of 163. It appeared as if Beltre finally put it all together and he came in second place in the NL MVP vote (to Barry Bonds, who walked 232 times en route to a 362/609/812 line). After the season, Beltre signed a five year contract with the Seattle Mariners for $64 million that included a $7 million signing bonus.
In Seattle, Beltre’s performance was underwhelming, particularly considering his salary. In 2005, Beltre hit 255/303/413 while struggling with hamstring issues. In 2006, Beltre hit 268/328/465, a solid season, but hardly the season the mariners wanted when they agreed to the contract. Beltre was earning is contract in other ways, as he became known as one of the best defensive third basement in the league. In 2007, Beltre hit a respectable 276/319/482 with 41 doubles and 26 home runs, while winning his first gold glove. In 2008, belter hit 266/327/457 while winning his second gold glove. In 2009, Beltre struggled to stay healthy, missing time due to inflammation and, eventually, surgery on his left shoulder to remove bone spurs, and what can only be termed a “fractured groin.”
In the off season, Beltre signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox for $10 million, with a $5 million player option for 2011. In Boston, everything finally seemed to click for Beltre as he put up a 321/365/553 line with a career high 49 doubles and 28 home runs, the second most of his career. Finishing ninth in the AL MVP vote, Beltre declined his 2011 option with the Red Sox and became a free agent.
The Texas Rangers signed Beltre, only 31 years old despite being having just completed his 13th season in the major leagues, to a six year contract valued at $96 million. Since the signing of the contract with the Rangers, Beltre has thrived, putting up a 296/331/561 line in 2011 while winning his third gold glove and silver slugger awards. So far in 2012, Beltre has continued putting up monster numbers, with a 320/357/561 line with 32 home runs and 30 doubles through 139 games.
So what do we make of Adrian Beltre? Is he a late bloomer who took nearly a decade to reach his potential? Did he actually figure it out in 2004, with injuries and pressure conspiring to adversely impact his performance? More importantly, what can we learn from Adrian Beltre? Are there other players who would benefit from extra time to figure it out? Was he rushed to the major leagues because the Dodgers were starting Bobby Bonilla at third base at the time?
The short answer is that Beltre was a tremendous talent who forced his way to the major leagues by absolutely destroying the ball, and a combination of injuries and the incredible amount of talent at the major league level made it difficult for Beltre to succeed.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
The moment it happens, you realize your team isn’t going to make that final push to the playoffs and it’s time to look forward to 2013 (and beyond) in an attempt to keep your team competitive for years to come. It happened to me in the winter between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and since then I have dealt Yovani Gallardo, Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Beltran (acquired in the Gallardo deal), and Matt Cain to acquire Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Manny Banuelos (who was dealt to get Michael Choice), Jean Segura, Gary Sanchez, Eric Hosmer, Shelby Miller, and Francisco Lindor (amongst others).
Below is a brief list of players you may want to consider who should be up in the next two seasons that could make a big impact on your team, and another list for players who are much, much further away.
2013/2014 Call Ups
Tyler Skaggs (ARI – LHP) – Initially drafted by the Angels in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft (the Mike Trout draft) and dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, Skaggs has dominated at every level. While Trevor Bauer has received all of the headlines, Skaggs has quietly dominated in his 52.2 innings, striking out 45, walking 16, and putting up a 2.91 ERA in the offense-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League. Skaggs may not open the year with the Diamondbacks, but, barring injury, he won’t be in the minor leagues for long.
Zack Wheeler (NYM – RHP) – The Mets got Wheeler in the Carlos Beltran deal last July and he has not disappointed (unless you’re a Giants fan). In 116 innings for AA Binghamton, Wheeler put up a 3.26 ERA while striking out 117 across 116 innings. Since his promotion to AAA, Wheeler has had two starts. He allowed 2 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start, and then allowed one run over six innings in his second start. Wheeler may open the year in Queens, especially given the Mets’ dedication to youth.
Shelby Miller (STL – RHP) – The 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Miller has been moving up prospect rankings every year. After an amazing 2011 – a combined 170 strikeouts while dominating High A and AA across 139.2 innings, Miller has looked merely human lately, putting up a 5.23 ERA across 112 innings. But that does not tell the whole story, as he has been much better as of late, causing rumors of a September call-up. I think Keith Law’s tweets will help elucidate:
Casey Kelly (SDP – RHP) – If you think Miller’s year has been up and down, the ultra athletic Kelly’s season has been even more up and down. After dominating in spring training, Kelly hurt his elbow after two great AAA outings. After three tune-up outings in Rookie ball, Kelly threw five innings in AA on August 10, striking out four and facing only 16 batters. Kelly looks like a good bet to start the 2013 in San Diego, and will benefit from playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league.
Jurickson Profar (TEX – SS) – On most teams, Profar would be getting called up now, if not a guaranteed call up in September, but the Rangers have Elvis Andrus, who is also quite good. As far as shortstops go, Profar is the total package: smooth defense, good speed, average to plus power, and a great hit tool. His ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star. When does he come up? That all depends…
Billy Hamilton (CIN – SS) – The fastest player in organized baseball presents a fascinating conundrum for the Reds’ front office. They can bring him up for the September stretch run and use him as an extra infielder and pinch runner extraordinaire, or keep Hamilton in the minor leagues until next season. Of course, Hamilton is more than just pure speed, after hitting 323/413/439 in the hyper-inflated offensive environment of the California League, Hamilton has hit 289/410/412 in AA. With 139 stolen bases, Hamilton is just six behind what is believed to be the minor league record of 145, set by Vince Coleman in 1983. When will Hamilton come up? My guess is mid-2013, but having a pinch runner like Hamilton would cause absolute chaos in October.
Hak-Ju Lee (TBR – SS) – The main talent acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Lee shot up the prospect rankings due to his smooth defense and hitting in 2011, putting up a 318/389/443 like in the pitching-friendly High A Florida State League. Despite a 261/336/360 line in 2012 while in AA, Lee hit better as the year wore on, putting up a 330/387/450 line in June and a 292/391/434 line in July. Lee is also blocked by former #1 pick Tim Beckham, who is the shortstop in AAA, but Beckham is hitting 255/332/332 and was suspended for marijuana use. While Lee is widely considered to be an above average defensive shortstop, Beckham is viewed as more of a utility infielder, significantly decreasing the chance that Lee will need to get past Beckham.
Wil Myers (KCR – OF) – After an injury limited Myers to a 254/353/393 line in 2011, Myers returned to AA to start 2012 and put up a 343/414/731 line across 35 games before being promoted to AAA, where he continued to hit, putting up a 300/377/572 line in 80 games. While only Jeff Francoeur stands in his way, the Royals seem unwilling to bring up Myers and start his march toward arbitration during a losing season. Expect Myers to be promoted in September, though his role may be undetermined as the season draws to a close.
Oscar Taveras (STL – OF) – After a 386/444/584 showing in A during 2011, Taveras has destroyed AA as a 20 year old in 2012, putting up a 321/382/574 line while primarily playing center field. Though viewed as someone who will eventually need to move to right field, Taveras is widely viewed as one of the best pure hitters (if not the best pure hitter) in the minor leagues with an upside that is that of a perennial MVP candidate. To quote Jason Parks, “His swing is going to bother scouts up the chain, and he’s also going to hit all the way up the chain. It’s not always pretty, and he swings the bat like he’s trying to kill someone breaking into his home, but it works.”
Dylan Bundy (BAL – RHP) – While Orioles fans are advocating for Dylan Bundy to be called up to help out in the bullpen in September, Bundy’s future lies as a Cy Young candidate-caliber pitcher for the next decade, becoming the next face of the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, that is if Dan Duquette allows Bundy to use his best pitch.
Miguel Sano (MIN – 3B) – Who is leading the Midwest League in home runs, RBI, and extra base hits (ok, he’s tied)? Miguel Sano. Who is leading the Midwest League in walks and second in strikeouts? Miguel Sano He turned 19 in May, he will probably end up as a right fielder, and he has 80 power (just ask Kevin Goldstein). His power, and the Twins’ lack of talent will get him to the majors by the end of 2014, and he’ll be there to stay.
Austin Hedges (SDP – C) – I know what you’re thinking, how can a guy hitting 253/313/426 in A ball be in the major leagues in two years? Simple – he’s the best defensive catcher current in the minors (well, of potential prospects, 35 year old veterans need not apply). With San Diego’s pitching prospects, it may make sense to push Hedges quickly and start building trust to help San Diego compete in the future.
Anthony Rendon (WAS – 3B) – Possibly the only player who can stake a claim to the best pure hitter in the minors other than Taveras, Rendon has battled injuries since his time in college. Recently promoted to AA, Rendon appears to be the last piece of the puzzle in Washington. While he has exclusively played third base while in the minors (and DH’d, but that doesn’t really count), his defensive home is not assured. Despite Rendon’s defensive acumen, Washington has gold glover Ryan Zimmerman locking down the position for nearly the next decade, so either Rendon will be shifted to first base or second base, or Zimmerman will move over to first base. Either way, Rendon is not long for the minor leagues and figures to hit wherever his defensive home may be (and we all hope second or third, for fantasy purposes).
Project 2015, and beyond – Here is a brief list of players who won’t be up for at least two years, but, if they make the major leagues, figure to make an absolutely huge impact.
Archie Bradley (ARI – RHP) – While Skaggs and Bauer are viewed as more sure things, Bradley has the potential of being a true ace, the perpetual top of the rotation starter that opening day for a decade and, if everything goes right, starts Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, Bradley’s potential is shown as he is second in strikeouts (the leader is 23, Bradley is 19) and his problems are shown as he leads the league in walks with 72, at 5/7 per nine innings. But Bradley turned 20 just last week, underscoring how much time has to work on his command and unleash his fastball/curveball combination on major league hitters.
Gary Sanchez (NYY – C) – Gary Sanchez is probably the heir to the Jesus Montero crown in more ways than one – questions about his defensive future behind the plate, but a great hitting catcher whose bat will play at any position. Of course, playing for the Yankees only serves to increase the comparisons, but Sanchez is his own player. After being suspended by the Yankees in 2011 for poor attitude, he came back with a vengeance in 2012, hitting 297/353/517 in full season A, followed by 288/354/441 after his promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Sanchez’s ultimate value is related to his ability to stay behind the plate (at least enough to qualify as a catcher), but his bat should play even if he ends up as a first baseman.
Aaron Sanchez (TOR – RHP) – Part of the vaunted “Lansing Three” with Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, Sanchez has a great fastball to go with his developing curveball and changeup. After somewhat struggling in 2011 (5.31 combined ERA in rookie and Low A ball), Sanchez has broken out in 2012, putting up a 2.36 ERA with 84 strikeouts across 76.1 innings. While his command still needs work (5.2 walks per nine), he could be the next ace to ply his trade on the other side of the border.
Luis Heredia (PIT – RHP) – Signed out of Mexico has a 15 year old; Heredia has dominated the college-heavy New York-Penn League despite not turning 18 until August 10. Despite not striking out that many batters (only 27 in 48.1 innings), Heredia has shown great command (2.6 walks per nine) while pitching with limited innings. Next season should be Heredia’s first season in full-season ball, and in a season with #1 Gerrit Cole and #2 Jameson Taillon, Heredia may have the highest ceiling of them all.
Tyler Austin (NYY – OF) – in 2011, Austin began putting it together, hitting 390/438/622 in 20 games for the GCL Yankees then 323/402/542 for the Staten Island Yankees. In 2012, Austin took the next step, hitting 320/405/598 in 70 games in full season A before being promoted to High A, where he has continued to hit, despite the pitching-friendly environment, putting up a 299/372/429 line while primarily playing right field. Austin may become the next great slugging outfielder for the Yankees, though comparing anyone to Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle, or Jackson is cruel, at best. How good could Austin be? The sky is the limit.
Francisco Lindor (CLE – SS) – Like Profar? Then you should like Lindor too. A switch hitter with great bat speed who is as close to a lock to stay as a shortstop as anyone else, Lindor projects to hit for a good average while hitting 15 home runs per season. He lacks Profar’s MVP-level upside, but a shortstop who goes to the All-Star game every season is pretty valuable.
Adonys Cardona (TOR – RHP) – While his numbers have underwhelmed (4.55 ERA in 2011 and 6.32 ERA in 2012), the 6’1″ 170 pounder has the upside of a future ace and the pedigree associated with the player who received the largest bonus out of any prospects ever signed out of Venezuela, a list that includes Felix Hernandez, Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jesus Montero.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
P.S. Sorry about the complete lack of posts lately, work has been incredibly busy, but I should be able to return to my normal 1-2 per week schedule for the rest of the season!
The 2011 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft was widely considered to be one of the best drafts in recent memory, if not all time. Although there was no consensus “generational” talent that would go #1, such as 2009’s #1 Stephen Strasburg or 2010’s #1 Bryce Harper, the depth of top-flight talent would be the calling card of the 2011 draft.
There were five elite pitching prospects that went in the first seven picks; college pitchers Gerrit Cole (#1, Pirates), Danny Hultzen (#2, Mariners), and long-tossing Trevor Bauer (#3, Diamondbacks); and Oklahoma High School pitchers Dylan Bundy (#4, Orioles) and Archie Bradley (#7, Diamondbacks). Each of the first four picks have generated significant buzz: Cole for his blazing fastball and ace projection in High A; Hultzen for his absolute dominance of college hitters while at Virginia and continued dominance in AA; Bauer for his routine of 500-foot long-tossing, throwing his first warm-up pitch off the backstop, dominance at UCLA, and continued dominance in AA; and Bundy for his 100-mph fastball and ace projection, coupled with his near perfect dominance of Low A hitters thus far (64 batters faced over 20 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, while striking out 33.
Perhaps the best one of them all, and the one generating the least buzz, has been the #7 pick: former Broken Arrow Tiger Archie Bradley. Bradley’s tale started long before he was drafted. After to transferring to Broken Arrow High School before his junior year, Bradley quickly became a multi-sport star as the starting quarterback for the football team and the ace pitcher for the baseball team. After Bradley’s junior season, he was named to the 2010 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic as a pitcher for the West team.
Prior to the 2011 baseball season, there was considerable buzz surrounding Bundy and Bradley. As often happens with elite athletes who play in the same area, Bundy and Bradley becoming friends when they were roommates for the Dallas Baseball Academy of Texas (D-Bat) Mustangs, an amateur team that played in the DFW Metro Scout League and in the Connie Mack World Series, the premier tournament for high school-age baseball players.
During Bradley’s senior season, he led his team to a 36-1 record and the Oklahoma 6A State Championship, Broken Arrow’s first since 1991. Bradley pounded the strike zone with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and power curveball, striking out 14 and only allowing two hits. Three of Bradley’s strikeouts were by Owasso’s star pitcher Dylan Bundy, who was playing third base (he pitched the previous day). Bradley finished the season with a 12-1 record, allowing only three earned runs across 71.1 innings, while striking out 133 (16.8 K/9).
In February, Bradley committed to play both football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma. Bradley, a big Sooner fan, was going to redshirt his freshman year in order to acclimate to college. Bradley, when asked about his choice to go to Oklahoma or play professional baseball, said:
It’s going to come down to what I really feel is best for me. I’ve used this analogy a bunch: Andrew Luck staying at Stanford proved that money isn’t everything. I have to make a decision that I can be happy with. I’ll weigh it out, whether it’s OU or pro ball is right for my future. It’s gonna be a big decision.
On June 6, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Bradley with the #7 overall pick of the draft. Bradley had a choice: go to Oklahoma to learn, play football and baseball, and hope to improve his draft stock in three years; or sign for guaranteed millions with the Diamondbacks. Before the draft, Bradley and fellow Oklahoman Bundy had made waves with their pre-draft comments about expected signing bonuses, as reported by Baseball America’s Jim Callis:
Neither Bundy nor Bradley will top Strasburg’s [$15.1 million] contract. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bundy equaled or surpassed Beckett and Porcello [both $7 million], or if Bradley topped the $5.25 million two-sport deal that quarterback/right hander Zach Lee got from the Dodgers in 2010.
Just minutes before the deadline, Bradley signed a contract worth $5 million, spread out over five years due to his two-sport abilities (players who could play multiple sports in college are eligible to have their signing bonuses spread out over a number of years, while one-sport athletes must get theirs all at once).
After signing, Bradley was sent to the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ Rookie Level affiliate in the Pioneer League. Bradley appeared in two games for one-inning each, allowing one hit, zero walks, and zero runs, while striking out four. In 15 innings with the Diamondbacks during instructional league play, Bradley gave up four runs, walking four, giving up just five hits, and striking out 22.
After the season, the prospect prognosticators repeatedly stated how much they liked Bradley’s potential, with Baseball America ranking Bradley #2 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #25 overall, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranking Bradley #3 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #37 overall, and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com rated Bradley #18. John Sickels stated that it is “[h]ard to say that a guy picked #7 overall is a “steal,” but he may very well be.
The glowing reports came in during Spring Training, with the buzz focusing on Bradley’s velocity and power curveball. One of the people commenting was Diamondbacks starting catcher, Miguel Montero:
I wanted to see what he had. I don’t believe what people say, so I wanted to see it. I saw the real deal right there. The ball was coming out of his hand like he was throwing 200 mph, an explosion. Those kids had no chance. Then I’m like, ‘He’s got just a fastball,’ and then he threw a hammer [curveball]. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s only 19, but if he stays healthy the way he is, he’s going to be here probably sometime next year. I guarantee that.
Montero continued, discussing Bradley on a personal level:
He’s a good kid. He has a great personality; I like it. Seems like a great teammate. He’s dedicated, he wants to get better and he wants to play in the big leagues soon.
Bradley’s pure stuff has been the focus of the attention with his blazing fastball, as was stated by Diamondbacks’ minor league pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyer, Jr.:
You know how some hitters, there’s a different sound off the bat? It’s a different look on how that ball comes out of his hand. We’ve got some other good arms out there; take nothing away from them. But this is different. We stay out of his way.
Bradley’s curveball has also gathered attention, as it was called a “knockout curveball” by Jim Shonerd at Baseball America and a “power curve” that is an above average pitch by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The most hyperbolic was Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, stating that Bradley’s “power curve is an executioner pitch, thrown with impressive velocity and achieving a very late and heavy break. Scouts have not been shy about throwing a future 7 on the offering, saying it could miss bats at any level of professional baseball right now.”
After spring training, Bradley was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the A Level Midwest League. Bradley, the third youngest pitcher (only Raul Alcantara and John Barbato are younger) and 11th youngest player in the league, immediately began dominating the league. In Bradley’s first six starts, Bradley has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two runs. Even after a poor seventh start (4 innings and 5 runs – 3 earned – against the Great Lakes Loons while giving up his first home run), Bradley’s statistics are imposing: 4-1 record and a 2.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts and only 13 hits over 35 innings. While Bradley has walked 21 batters, his 0.971 WHIP shows just how dominating he has been in his brief time in professional baseball.
So what should we expect from Bradley? Unless you are a fan of the Diamondbacks or in an exceptionally deep keeper league, Bradley probably will not be of relevance until late 2014, if not 2015. Bradley’s ability, coupled with his size (6’4″ and 225 pounds) and simple, easy delivery make him a top prospect based upon current ability, and he has the potential to become even better. In order to become the top of the rotation starter the Diamondbacks envisioned when they drafted him, Bradley will have to improve his command, sharpen his power curveball, and turn his average-at-best curveball into a solid third pitch.
[T]here’s still so much that could go wrong with Bradley’s development. … Lower-level arms are tantalizing to dream on, but the odds of them panning out as planned are disturbingly small, which is something to remember before declaring Bradley as a sure-fire bet to anchor the D-backs rotation in 2014.
But don’t sell Bradley short just because he was the 5th pitcher taken in the 2011 draft – he may have the most potential.
Jose Bautista, or Joey Bats, as he is known on Twitter, has been one of the most dominant players in baseball during the past two years and, if you looked at him just 24 months ago, you would have seen a career replacement-level player with a poor batting average and a sudden spike in home runs. Bautista might be the best example of why you should not give up on a minor leaguer with potential, and why the Rule V draft can be incredibly disruptive to the development of a prospect. But how did Bautista get there?
After not being signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Bautista enrolled at Chipola Junior College in Florida, and performed well enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 19th pick of the 20th round (#599 overall) of the 2000 Rule IV draft as a draft and follow. Signed prior to the 2001 draft, Bautista was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters of the Short Season A New York Penn League, where he showed promise, putting up a 286/364/427 line while primarily playing third base. After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #14 prospect in the Pirates’ system.
For 2002, Bautista played for the awesomely-named Hickory Crawdads of the A-level South Atlantic League, where he put up a 301/402/470 line with 26 doubles and 14 homers (tied for 8th with Robinson Cano and Shelley Duncan) while almost exclusively playing third base. Bautista’s prospect status remained on the rise, as he was ranked the #7 prospect in the Pirates’ system by Baseball America.
Bautista’s 2003 season was a lost season due to a right hand injury (caused by pulling a Kevin Brown and punching a garbage can out of frustration), putting up a 242/359/424 line for the Lynchburg Hillcats of the High-A Carolina League and 348/429/522 in seven rehab games for the Rookie Level GCL Pirates.
After the 2003 season, Bautista’s career trajectory took an abrupt jolt due to a massive mistake by the Pirates’ GM, Dave Littlefield. Despite having three open spots on the 40-man roster, the Pirates chose not to protect a number of prospects, including Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, Chris Shelton and Bautista. Even before the draft, a number of people within baseball were wondering what Littlefield was thinking, leaving so many players unprotected. In the Major League Phase of the Rule V Draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Shelton #1 overall, with Bautista going #6 overall to the Baltimore Orioles. Bautista was lauded for his high ceiling and athleticism, along with his solid play in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Now with the Orioles, Bautista was ranked their #12 prospect despite only appearing in 58 games in 2003.
The Major League Phase of the Rule V draft requires draftees to be kept on the Major League roster for the entire season, or they must be offered back to their original team for half of the initial $50,000 used to select the paper (AKA $25,000). If the original team declines, the new team may send the player down to the minors.
As a result, Bautista opened the 2004 season with the Baltimore Orioles, primarily acting as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, picking up spot starts while putting up a 273/333/273 line over 16 games (with only 12 plate appearances) before being put on waivers in early June. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Bautista off of waivers on June 3. Bautista appeared in just 12 games with the Devil Rays over the course of the next three weeks before having his contract being purchased from the Devil Rays by the Kansas City Royals. With the Royals, Bautista appeared in 13 games before being dealt to the New York Mets for Justin Huber. Mets GM Jim Duquette, in his infinite wisdom, immediately turned around and packaged Bautista with Ty Wiggington and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger, errantly believing the Mets were still in playoff contention. Duquette also dealt top prospect Scott Kazmir with Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bartolome Fortunado and Victor Zambrano, giving a generation of Mets fans a source of woe. Bautista remained with the Pirates for the rest of the season, appearing in 23 games and putting up a woeful 200/238/250 line.
Bautista’s final line for the 2004 season was 205/263/239 for four teams, though he was part of a fifth team for a hot minute. Despite all of this, Bautista was still viewed as a decent prospect, as Baseball America ranked him #12 in the Pirates system. The Pirates assigned Bautista to the AA Altoona Curve of the Eastern League, where Bautista absolutely crushed the ball, putting up a 283/364/503 line with 23 home runs across 117 games. Promoted to the AAA Indianapolis Indians of the International League on August 24, Bautista put up a 255/309/373 in 13 games. Given a September call up, Bautista put up a 143/226/179 line over 31 plate appearances during 11 games. After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #5 prospect in the Pirates’ organization and the Pirates named him their minor league player of the year.
Bautista began 2006 in Indianapolis, but was called up to be the Pirates’ utility man in early May when Joe Randa was hurt. With Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth, the Pirates center field platoon, struggling, Bautista played a significant amount of center field en route to putting up a 235/335/420 line across 117 games. Bautista appeared in 57 games in center field, 33 games at third base, 25 games in right field, 6 in left field, and two at second base (the totals will not add up, as Bautista appeared in multiple positions during a game on more than one occasion).
In 2007, Bautista was the Pirates primary third baseman, putting up a 254/339/414 line across 142 games; 126 games at third base, 16 in right field, 5 in center field, and 2 in left field (totals will not add up again due to in-game positional changes). Bautista missed significant time in July 2007 after Chipper Jones spike lacerated his hand, forcing Bautista onto the DL.
In 2008, Bautista helped the Tigres del Lincy win the Caribbean Series, putting up a robust 250.385/600 line while playing center field, left field, and third base, tying Miguel Tejada and Roberto Saucedo for the Caribbean Series lead in home runs. Bautista opened the 2008 season as the starting third baseman for the Pirates, but failed to show much improvement, and was supplanted by Andy LaRoche in late July. Having put up a 242/325/404 line with the Pirates, Bautista was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, which turned out to be Robinzon Diaz. Bautista closed out the year with 61 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, hitting a putrid 214/237/411.
Bautista opened the 2009 season platooning in left field with rookie Travis Snider and occasionally backing up Scott Rolen at third base. Bautista held a 234/356/355 line when the Blue Jays let the Chicago White Sox claim Alex Rios off waivers. Bautista played nearly every day for the rest of the season, putting up a 236/341/500 line with ten home runs. As the story goes, Vernon Wells told Bautista:
“You know what you should do. Think about starting as early as you can possibly imagine, so early that it seems ridiculous. And then start even earlier than that. What do you have to lose? If you look like a fool, you look like a fool. It’s just one game.”
That sudden power surge, with Bautista hitting six home runs in the final eight games of the season signaled that Bautista may have finally putting it all together.
Bautista opened the 2010 season as the Blue Jays’ right fielder and leadoff man, but when Fred Lewis was acquired, Bautista was moved back in the lineup. After a poor April (213/314/427), Bautista came alive in May and put up a 287/422/766 line with 12 home runs. Bautista had a poor June (179/324/369) and then came alive for the rest of the season, hitting 11 home runs in July, 12 in August, and 11 in September to lead the Major Leagues in home runs with 54 en route to a 260/378/617 season where he would also lead the majors in total bases with 351 (tied with Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez) while coming in fourth in MVP voting. Bautista was also elected to the All Star Game and was awarded the Silver Slugger.
After the season, Bautista signed a new contract with the Blue Jays for five years and $65 million guaranteed, with a club option worth $14 million for a sixth year (and a $1 million buyout). There was a lot of speculation in the off season if Bautista was the next big slugger who finally figured it out, or if Bautista was a player who had one nice season but would never be able to replicate the results. The Blue Jays clearly thought Bautista finally figured it out, but there were skeptics. Additionally, there were skeptics who felt that Bautista’s numbers were assisted by unnatural sources, such as steroids. As the debate raged between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Bautista remained steadfast in his denial: he had not used performance enhancing drugs.
Bautista used 2011 to silence his critics: he hit a robust 302/447/608 with 43 home runs (and 24 intentional walks), coming in third place in the MVP vote, making his second consecutive All Star Game, and being awarded his second Silver Slugger. But Bautista struggled with minor injuries in the second half of the season, as he only hit 257/419/477 after putting up a video game-like 334/468/702 in the first half.
In the 2011-2012 off season, the steroid rumors swirled again, with Bautista stating:
“I don’t mind it; it’s something that is not going to affect my focus and I’m not going to allow it to affect how I play my game. They are entitled to do whatever they want and test you as many times as they want. If I get picked to be tested a million times, that’s fine with me.”
So what happens from here? I think Bautista has a nice next few seasons, but I think we have seen the peak of Jose Bautista. Bautista is 31, an age when athletic performance declines, and has gotten off to a slow start so far in 2012, with a 181/320/313 line in the season’s first month. Even baseball writers have noted Bautista’s slow start with an implied belief that (a) Bautista is for real and (b) it’s merely a slump, such as Baseball Prospectus‘ Ben Lindberg:
and FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi:
and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
I think Bautista will bounce back with a solid season with 35+ home runs, a level he will maintain for the next few seasons. If Bautista hits 25 per year for each of the next four years – a very attainable level for someone who has his talent and #want, he could easily end up one of the top 200 home run hitters of all time (250 total would be 200th all time).
While Jose Bautista will never be elected to the Hall of Fame (unless he goes all Barry Bonds on us), it’s great to see him get a chance and succeed at the highest level after all he’s gone through – especially his horrific 2004.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.