Jays From the Couch brings you a look at what you can expect in 2017 from Toronto Blue Jays’ RF, Jose Bautista
With Spring Training workouts under way, it is the time of year where we start to get excited about the upcoming season. Baseball is back! In looking ahead, there will be lots of chatter about what we can expect from certain players. To that end, we’ll be taking a look at the different projections for the Toronto Blue Jays to give you an idea of what you can look forward to.
The legend is back! Jose Bautista returns to the Blue Jays for at least one more season. Much has been written and talked about regarding his experience with the free agent market. Depending on how much stock you put into his rumored contract demands from a year ago, his apparent value seems to have taken a hit. One could argue that the reason for that is his performance in 2016, which saw his typical numbers decline. Injuries played a major role in his output, but some also have added that age became a factor, which led many to wonder just how productive he can be in the future. We’ll take a look at what the immediate future could hold for Joey Bats.
|162 Game Avg.||657||94||140||28||33||92||94||119||.255||.861|
For the first time in a long time, Jose Bautista was not an All Star. His 2016 numbers seem but a shadow of what we would expect when looking back on a season from him. As stated, injuries played a major role in his production. Jamming his foot against a wall in Philadelphia and getting his cleat caught in the turf, causing a sprained knee took a lot out of his bat. Seeing 116 games severely cut down the opportunity for success. And, that is not even taking into account the number of games he was either trying to deal with, or return from, those injuries.
It is interesting to note that while his walk rate was as high as you would expect last season (16.8%), his strike out rate jumped to 19.9%, which is uncharacteristically high for Bautista. Just out of curiosity, his BABIP has always been well below league average, and 2016 was no different. So, it is not like he was experiencing an amount of “bad luck” last year. In all honesty, he’s never really been “lucky”.
Basically, he hit more line drives, fewer flyballs and either hit the ball with soft contact (more than he did last year) or hard contact (more than he did last year). His HR/FB rate took a bit of a dip, down 2% from the year before and his overall power was well below his normal mark: ISO: .217 in 2016, compared to .238 for his career.
Looking at his PITCHf/x Plate Discipline data via Fangraphs, there are a couple of things worth mentioning.
For example, take a look at how often Bautista swung the bat. His Swing% was his lowest ever. The amount that he swung at pitches in the zone was abnormally low as well. He was seeing the fewest pitches in the zone that he’s ever seen, and he was swinging less often, making less contact. There could be a number of reasons for this, but the one that jumps out is that he could have been relying on the walk a bit much. We know that Bautista has one of the better eyes in baseball, but when you’re struggling, maybe you look to work a walk more, or look for that perfect pitch that will bust you out of a slump. That is not to say that IS what happened with Bautista, but the numbers are worth mentioning, even if they are not overly alarming.
It is interesting that the projections expect somewhat of a bounce back for Bautista, even though no one expects that he’ll see even 600 plate appearances. But, if he can get close to 150 games in, that would put him near that mark. And, if you listen to everyone talk about Jose’s health and his training regimen, they’ll tell you that 150 games shouldn’t really be a problem. That would make things very interesting for teh future clauses in his contract, but that’s for another day.
Right now, we’re interested in what Joey Bats can give Toronto in 2017. Around 30 HR and close to 90-100 RBI would be a great season from Bautista and would put the doubt to rest around whether he can perform at age 36. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he even surpasses these totals. As well, he is expected to see his wRC+ bounce back to ~131, which is a far cry form his monster years, but an increase over 2016.
Even if Bautista doesn’t surprise everyone and have a monster year, these numbers are more than acceptable from him. If he can hit the 3 WAR mark, and there’s no real reason to think he can’t, he will have given the value of his $18M deal. Of course, a lot of his value will depend on how long he can remain serviceable in the field, which is something that the club likely won’t admit to monitoring carefully, but it has to be in the back of their collective minds.
That said, if anyone is capable of rebounding nicely, it is Jose Bautista. Whether you put stock in a guy playing with a chip on his shoulder, or playing on a mission, Bautista is one of those guys. Time will tell if that translates into a return of Joey Bats, or a new version: Joey Sort of Bats.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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