Last season, journeyman Jose Bautista took home the major league home run title with 54 balls mashed. This came as something of a surprise to everyone in fantasy baseball. Nowhere did he appear on a list of fantasy sleepers, nor was he ranked on very many draft boards heading into last season's draft. Even Nostradamus missed out on this guy. So after a monster career 2010 campaign, where do we rank him in 2011?
On every ranking I've seen, the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, now third baseman, is showing up in the top 10 at both positions, averaging around 6th in most. The "experts" are quick to point out that he will likely see up to a 25% decline in production from last season in his power numbers, but that would still be 40+ home runs. Not too shabby, for a guy who is turning 31 this season.
History, as they say, is always the best indicator of future production. So how did we not see this fantasy windfall coming? Bautista, who broke into the majors in 2004, with stints on four different teams, finally managed to catch on for a few years with the lowly and oft overlooked Pittsburgh Pirates. Is it that they saw something in Bautista, or simply that they settled for him?
"Joey Bats" as he is called (yeah I'd never heard that one outside of a Goodfellas movie either) was moved from the Pirates in 2008 over to Toronto where he once again blended into the woodwork.
In 2011, Jose played his first full season, with 161 games, and he broke out with his beast of a fantasy season, but let's look closely at his numbers. A career .244 hitter, Bautista still only managed a career high .260 average last season. Over previous seasons, the most damage Jose had done in the home run department was 16. In his only other quasi-full season (148 games)he nailed 15 dingers.
So where did this sudden burst of power come from? All of his peripheral numbers remained this same. Only his HRs, Total Bases, and slugging percentage went up. In fact, his slugging percentage leaped more than 200 points over his career average. A trend highly unlikely to continue.
Passing up a guy who led the league in homers last season is tough to do, but based on history, and where he's being drafted, my advice is let someone else pay the hefty price tag, and assume the weighty risk.
Here is what I realistically think we can expect from Jose in 2011:
How much are you will to pay for those numbers? That certainly doesn't make him a Top 10 pick at 3B or OF in 2011.
What your decision ultimately comes down to is your belief that 2010 was a coming of age, or a fluke anomaly. History is on the side of the latter, and 2011 Jose Bautista is the epitome of caveat emptor.