Over the last couple of weeks, we've offered introductions to our Best Players of 2015 series. We set the stage for the whole endeavor, and we then revealed the players who earned landed between 45th and 11th on the list. If you need a refresher on the methodology, nine of our writers ranked players based on how well they thought players would perform during the 2015 season. They ranked them from No. 1 to No. 20, and those players got point values (20 for first, 19 for second, etc) and were ranked by the sum of their points. The highest possible score is 180. Last week, we told you Anthony Rendon ranked tenth.
#9: Jose Bautista, Right Field (Toronto Blue Jays)
Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports
There are basically three things worth saying in any conversation about Jose Bautista. The first is the obvious one: he was a late bloomer who didn't really show anything until late in his age-28 season. He changed his swing and became the poster child for late career breakouts. Everyone who has their first great season after 27 might be the next Bautista. That's thing number one.
Thing number two is that he follows everyone on Twitter. As I write this, he follows 400,000 people. Just imagine how long it takes him to catch up on his timeline after a long car ride.
Thing three is more of an inside joke, but if you play fantasy baseball in an auction format, there's a minor league pitcher of the same name and usually you can trick someone into spending like $30 on him because he thinks it's the Bautista that hits the ball rather far.
Why We Love Him
It wasn't much of a question that Bautista would appears somewhere in the top 20. He's averaged 5.7 fWAR per 600 PA over the last five seasons and the only reason for the "per 600 PA" rate qualifier was because he missed a little time due to injury. But we're talking about nearly 30 WAR over five seasons and that doesn't need much qualifying.
Obviously, it's power and patience that earns Bautista a high ranking. He's a solid corner outfielder who does fine on the bases, but he's a 15% walk rate guy who slugs over .500. You'd have to be terrible at everything else to not turn some heads with those numbers.
Particularly, Bautista gets high marks from our voters because he's a patient slugger who doesn't lack the ability to make contact. He has a powerful swing, but he strikes the ball at a roughly league average rate to go along with his terrific eye and superhuman bat speed.
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The projections for Bautista are only interesting if you're into quibbling about how ZiPS allocates playing time. Steamer likes him for 5.3 WAR, PECOTA for 5.0, and ZiPS brings up the rear at 4.2, but mostly because it's forecasting about 100 fewer PA. Where you've been this good for five seasons, you generally get a favorable projection for the next season. Maybe Bautista won't be a star for much longer, but when you have his power and eye, you're not going to fall off a cliff in the near future.
Where He Fits In
Bautista was named on eight* ballots, ranging from 20th to 7th, and finished with 66 points to just barely edge out Rendon. Interestingly, that makes Bautista the official fourth outfielder of the top 10, with three pretty obvious names waiting above him.
* - glares at Scott Lindholm
There's an interesting comparison to be made someday between Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton. There's more discipline in Bautista's game and more power in Stanton's, but if Bautista had found his legs about three years earlier he'd probably be sitting on an extra eleventy gillion dollars.
Also worth pondering is Bautista at No. 9 versus Yasiel Puig at No. 14. They aren't terribly far apart, but it's fun to think about. Which player would you prefer for 2015? Puig comes with some of the "not-playing-the-game-the-right-way" baggage, but he's about ten years younger and seemingly less likely to wear down. I wonder how many GMs would agree with our voters and take Bautista, thinking only about 2015?
Bautista is also a good sanity check that our writers followed the rules. He's certainly got plenty of value for 2015 and our writers didn't get caught up looking ahead at surplus value and long term cost-controlled talent. The list is about 2015 and Bautista has given us every reason to continue to believe in his abilities for next year.
Statistics via FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and writes enthusiastically at New English D.