I assume that this post will not in any way shape or form help your team. Most of these posts are requests for trade help, or some kind of advice on who to target in trades or free agency. This post is not intended to do either of those things. The purpose of this post is to chronicle the rise of Jose Bautista.
Fantasy baseball has had very few clear cut kings in its rise to extreme popularity in the last decade. Barry Bonds held the title for a short time. Alex Rodriguez has had at least some claim to it for a long time. Albert Pujols has generally been considered number 1 for the majority of my fantasy baseball career. But as of now there is one unquestioned number 1 in Jose Bautista. I am not saying that he is necessarily the best player in fantasy baseball, but he has been so far this season. He paces the MLB in Runs, Home Runs, batting average, OBP, SLG, and tosses in 27 RBIs, 4 steals, and 38 BBs with 21 Ks. He has had an undeniably dominant start to the season. May 19th was the first time in over a month that he failed to reach base and he has led the Blue Jays to a 22-22 record, no small feat for a team playing in the AL East at 2.5 games back from the league leader. Bautista has been phenomenal to this point, which begs the question, where the heck did this guy come from?
To say the least, Bautista was not a sought after commodity to begin his career. In 2004 he became the first and only player to be on five different MLB rosters in one season, and did not hit a home run above high A until 2005. Over the next 4 seasons (2006-2009) he would hit double digit HRs at every MLB stop, but would not flash elite power. He did not even necessarily establish himself as a legit MLB regular for the worst team (Pirates) in baseball at the time. As I have just mentioned, Bautista hit double digits home runs (but never even above 16) in each major league stop between 2006 and 2009, he seemed to be a non-factor. But one thing stuck out. Of the 13 that he hit in 2009, 3 were in his first 227 ABs and 10 were hit in his last 109. Bautista was finally beginning to flash some power.
Along came 2010, AKA the year of the pitcher. ERAs were down, Ks were up. The one thing that nobody seemed to get were HRs, Except Jose Bautista. He paced the MLB with 54 HRs. Even the stat that many look to for luck indicators, BABIP, indicated that if anything Jose had been unlucky in his greatest season by far ever. His .233 BABIP was far below the league average and quite below his average of .260 in 2010. Something must have gone horribly wrong.
In the world of fantasy baseball nobody really knew what to do with Bautista. His numbers had put him in elite territory but no one thought he could keep it up, let alone improve on his numbers. He was a dead pull hitter that couldn't go the opposite way with the ball but for some reason had a 21.7 HR/FB%. Jose Bautista was an enigma going into the season and not a single owner knew exactly how to value him Fastforward a month and a half and he has been far beyond even what an owner could hope for from Pujols, A-Rod, or Bonds at their best. His BABIP may be .326 and he has a HR/FB over 30% but Bautista's production to this point has been simply unbelievable.
What does this tell us about fantasy baseball? I would venture to say that it tells us that we really know nothing. The best in any given period of time can be anyone. A 1st overall pick that was more highly touted than any prospect of the past decade and preceding decade (A-Rod). A 2nd round pick with an MLB pedigree and a drastic change in approach (Bonds). A 13th round pick that began to produce quickly out of the gate (Pujols). Or a 20th round pick that sat around in the minors, didn't produce much, bounced back and forth between the majors and minors, and finally found his niche as a 29-year-old slugger and became the best at age 30. Bautista was a rule 5 pick of the Orioles, he was drafted by the Pirates, moved around, wound up back with the Pirates for several seasons before finally finding his place with the Blue Jays. If anything his tale shows us that the next best thing really can come from anywhere at any time. All we can do is wait and hope to get lucky.