by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Jose Bautista was one of the biggest names hurt by the lack of market movement this winter, as he remained a free agent deep into April. He finally found a home yesterday signing with the Atlanta Braves, though his expected role is a surprising one. Mark Bowman of MLB.com published the following quote from Atlanta General Manage Alex Anthopoulos:
“The hope is he shows he’s capable of being a good player who can help us win games,” Anthopoulos said. “If that happens, he’ll come up and play third base for us. Hopefully, things work out.”
It’s a no risk move for Atlanta, who is in desperate need for an answer at third base (while Ryan Flaherty is playing well right now, it’s impossible to expect him to maintain it). Bautista originally came up as a third baseman, and he did make 8 appearances there in ’17, but the last time he saw extensive time at the spot was in 2011 (when he played 25 games and 205.0 innings). At 37-years old, is it a stretch to think he can suddenly handle on a daily basis?
You have to give Atlanta credit for thinking outside the box, something they tried last season with poor results (when they shifted Freddie Freeman to 3B). This is all about plugging the void until Austin Riley is ready to arrive, and with the 21-year old raking at Double-A (.370, 3 HR, 12 RBI over 46 AB) he could make his MLB debut before ’18 is over.
As far as Bautista goes, what could he bring offensively if he does prove he can handle the position? Last season he hit .203 with 23 HR, as his strikeout rate rose (24.8%) courtesy of a jump in his SwStr% (7.9% for his career, 10.9% last season). He saw his Whiff% rise against all types of pitches as well:
- Hard – 9.14%
- Breaking – 14.68%
- Offspeed – 15.15%
The rate against “hard” pitches is important, even though it’s still reasonable, as it rose from 6.51% in 2016 and only once had been above 7.31% (8.58% in 2011). Is it that his swing has simply slowed down, given his age, allowing pitchers to get more and more fastballs by him? Another year older that’s not something we can ignore.
Bautista also saw his power dip, with his HR/FB dropping to 11.9% (16.2% for his career). Just like with the strikeouts, another year older is there a guarantee that he can correct the issue?
Even if Bautista proves capable of handling third base, a best case scenario has him 3 weeks out and offensively he could fail to make an impact. There appears to be more risk than reward, doesn’t there?
Fantasy Waiver Wire Guidelines:
- 10 Team League – Too shallow
- 12 Team League – Too shallow
- 14+ Team League – Worth stashing
- NL-Only League – Worth stashing
- Keeper/Dynasty – Worth stashing in deeper formats
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com
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