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2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 69: The Only Flaw in Jose Bautista’s 2010 Season

Mon, Mar 7, 2011

Big Board, Player Projections

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Jose Bautista has been perhaps the most discussed player in fantasy baseball this offseason after blasting 54 HRs in 2010. While he won’t reach the 50-HR plateau in 2011, I believe Bautista will remain fantasy relevant. In fact, his 2010 season wasn’t a complete fluke.

It’s difficult to understand just how incredible Bautista’s 2010 season was. His 54 home runs were 17 more than that of Joey Votto, and five more than Albert Pujols’ career high. It was the first 50-HR season since A-Rod and Prince Fielder hit 54 and 50, respectively, in 2007; and was quite possibly one of the few 50-HR campaigns in decades that wasn’t performance-enhanced.

Further, Bautista’s ISO power (.357) nearly matched the batting average (.359) of 2010 batting champ Josh Hamilton. BOOM. Mind broken.

Of course, Bautista totaled just 59 HRs in the four seasons (500 games) prior to 2010, which raises a major red flag. The spike in home runs, however, can be attributed to his altered swing mechanics.

The naysayers will point to his low batting average, .260 last season. I would argue, however, that fantasy managers have stomached Adam Dunn’s .250 career average for years, and he’s hit more than 40 HRs in a season just once.

Surprisingly enough, Bautista’s plate discipline stats are very good for a player with 50-HR power. He displayed a keen batting eye last season, posting a walk rate of 14.6 percent (fifth-best among qualified batters). His strikeout rate (20.4 percent) was right at the league average, as was his contact rate (80.7 percent).

Perhaps most surprising, however, was Bautista’s ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone, posting a respectable 24.1 percent o-swing rate (MLB average 29.3 percent).

The only flaw in Bautista’s advanced stats are his batted ball rates. Only two other players had a fly-ball rate higher than Bautista’s (54.5 percent) last season. This explains the alarmingly-low .233 BABIP. A normalized BABIP in 2010, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher batting average.

Batting Average on Balls In Play is just that – it measures a player’s batting average only on balls in play. Therefore, home runs (balls not in play) are excluded from the equation.

If we’re to assume a regression in his home run total, we also must project a lower fly-ball rate. This will actually aid Bautista’s BABIP, but put a dent in his actual batting average.

In projecting Bautista for 2011, a few things stand out.

First, Bautista still gets to hit at home run-friendly Rogers Centre, where he hit a mind-boggling .282/.412/.737 with 33 HRs in 262 at-bats last season.

Second, the lineup surrounding him will be very different. Vernon Wells is gone, leaving a heavy burden on Adam Lind and Aaron Hill to bounce back from disappointing seasons.

Expect a home run total in the low 30s with a batting average no higher than the one he posted in 2010. Given his third base and outfield eligibility, Bautista remains a valuable fantasy asset.

  PA R HR RBI SB AVG
2010 stats 683 109 54 124 9 .260
3-year average 504 69 27 73 5 .247
2011 FBI Forecast 640 85 30 90 5 .253

 

Image courtesy of: Dennis Adair

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