2011 MLB Predictions: 10 Players Who Could Be The Next Jose Bautista
The 2010 MLB season was arguably the most surprising of any in recent memory. From the bevy of no-hitters to the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers meeting in the World Series, there was no shortage of outcomes that would have left fans scratching their heads had they been told how the season would turn out beforehand.
No baseball story line from 2010 garnered more intrigue, however, than that of Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Jose Bautista.
The thirty-year-old journeyman from the Dominican Republic spent six years bouncing around the majors before landing a full-time gig in Toronto, which he promptly parlayed into a monstrous 54-homer, 124-RBI season.
Talk about a breakout performance!
Of course, with Bautista's story written into the history books, baseball fans are now left to wonder who will be the next no-name player to burst on to the scene.
As such, here are 10 players who, in some way or another, fit the description to be the next Jose Bautista.
Mike Stanton, Outfielder, Florida Marlins
We begin in Florida, where young Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton looks poised for an ascent into the big time.
Granted, Stanton isn't exactly an unknown commodity in baseball. The 6'5", 240-pounder had long been touted as an elite minor league prospect before joining the big club in Miami in early June.
Then again, Jose Bautista had also been something of a high-potential guy in baseball circles, with his name being tossed around by teams around the league looking for a young player with power potential.
In just 359 at-bats, Stanton managed to put 22 balls in the seats, though he also struck out more than a third of the time (123).
At the tender age of 21, Stanton could very well challenge the Marlins' franchise record for home runs in a season of 42 by Gary Sheffield in 1996.
And even if that's not the case, Stanton is on track to become an elite power hitter in a day and age where there are so few roaming the majors.
Drew Stubbs, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds
Like Stanton, Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs is a young player due for a breakout year in 2011.
In his first full season in 2010, the former Texas Longhorn accounted for 22 dingers and 77 RBI while batting lead-off for Dusty Baker's NL Central-champion Reds.
Mind you, those numbers came amidst Stubbs' early season struggles, which saw him shuttling between the big club and the team's Triple-A affiliate in Louisville.
Assuming Stubbs is able to slug with greater consistency in 2011, he'll be well on his way to Jose Bautista status.
Kelly Johnson, Second Base, Arizona Diamondbacks
Kelly Johnson fits the Jose Bautista profile a bit better than Drew Stubbs and Mike Stanton do.
For one, Johnson, like Bautista, is something of a journeyman, though his journey has led him to only two different Major League locales–Atlanta and Phoenix.
More importantly, Johnson is a player, at the age of 28, who is entering his prime and who showed only occasional power prior to last season.
One of the hallmarks of the Bautista profile is a powerful September, which Johnson certainly had, belting seven home runs in that month to bring his season total to 26.
On a team full of free-swingers in Arizona, look for Johnson to join the pack next year and watch his home runs totals rise to new heights.
Stephen Drew, Shortstop, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sticking with the Arizona Diamondbacks, shortstop Stephen Drew also has some serious Jose Bautista potential.
Drew came up to the majors as a can't-miss prospect, the younger brother of the uber-talented but also maddeningly inconsistent J.D. Drew, but has yet to deliver in his promise, following in the footsteps of his familial forebears.
In five season, the 6', 190-pound infielder has hit 65 homers, with 15 in 2010 and a career-high of 21 in 2008. At the age of 27 and with eight home runs this past August, Drew would seem to be inching closer and closer to a Bautista-like breakout in 2011.
Add to that the fact that he plays his home games at Chase Field, which is among the most fly ball-friendly parks in the majors, and it appears that Drew is due for a career-redefining year in 2011.
Michael Morse, Outfielder, Washington Nationals
Few players in the majors today fit the Bautista profile better than Nationals outfielder Michael Morse.
The 28-year-old from Fort Lauderdale has spent just over five years in the Major Leagues, though his playing time has been scant at best, with only 237 game appearances logged in those five seasons.
Since moving to Washington from Seattle, Morse has seen something of an uptick in opportunity, with his 98 games and 266 at-bats in 2010 being by far the most in any one year in his career.
Furthermore, Morse hit five home runs in the last two weeks of the season to bring his total to 15 on the year.
The only thing holding Morse back, which also happened to hold Bautista back for so long, is playing time, with the Nats signing players–Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche–at the positions at which Morse would be most likely get playing time.
Ryan Raburn, Outfielder/Utility Player, Detroit Tigers
If Michael Morse doesn't get the requisite playing time to blow up in 2011, look for Ryan Raburn to snatch the title for "Most Jose Bautista-Like Performance".
Physically, Raburn is strikingly similar in age (29) and size (6', 185 pounds) to Bautista, and, like Jose B., has been used mostly as a utility player by Jim Leyland in Detroit.
Furthermore, Raburn came on strong toward the end of the season in 2010, hitting eight balls into the stands in August and five more in September amidst consistent playing in the absence of Magglio Ordonez.
And, with Johnny Damon on his way out of the Motor City, look for Raburn to turn more playing time with the Tigers into a season that Jose Bautista would be proud of.
Wilson Betemit, Infielder, Kansas City Royals
When it comes to journeyman, few in MLB today have traveled farther and wider than Wilson Betemit.
In seven seasons in the Big Show, Betemit has played for five different times, finding spotty playing time and different positions to play at each stop.
At 29 years of age, Betemit is set to reach his power peak at just about the perfect time, now that the Royals have pretty much handed him the keys to the everyday job at third base after trading Alberto Callaspo back to the Angels.
With a reputation for power from the left side of the plate, look for Betemit to bring plenty of pop to Kansas City's line-up in 2011 if he does, indeed, get the kind of consistent playing time that has eluded him his entire career.
Chris Johnson, Third Baseman, Houston Astros
The last three players on this list, starting with Chris Johnson, figure in more as purely breakout players rather than strictly adherents to the Jose Bautista model of late-bloomership.
As a rookie in 2010, Johnson didn't get consistent playing time in Houston until the end of June and didn't begin to exhibit his power until September, when he hit five homers in a month.
The 26-year-old third baseman from Naples, Florida is due for more playing time in 2011, which could mean a big jump statistically who was never considered a can't-miss, elite-level prospect.
Carlos Santana, Catcher, Cleveland Indians
Leaving the obvious jokes aside, Carlos Santana is ready for an eye-popping season in 2011.
The 24-year-old catcher was well on his way to becoming a star for the Cleveland Indians in 2010 before tearing up his knee in a gut-wrenching home-plate collision against the Boston Red Sox in early August.
However, Santana looked like a stud in the making before the injury, posting an OPS of .868 in 150 at-bats and walking more than he struck out.
Assuming he recovers well from his injury, Santana should be on track for a breakout performance this coming season, though it won't be from a late-bloomer coming out of nowhere like Jose Bautista's in 2010.
Pedro Alvarez, Third Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
Unfortunate as it may be, Pedro Alvarez appears to be the next great young player to come out of the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system only to be traded a few years later for more prospects.
The 23-year-old third baseman, who played college ball at Vanderbilt, was called up to the Big Leagues in mid-June and finished the season with 16 long balls and 64 RBI.
Though he plays the same position as Bautista, Alvarez would surprise pretty much no one in the baseball world if his home run numbers took a big step up in 2011, possibly into the range of 30 or 40.