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Flames: Pardon the BA, Jose Bautista is the new Zorilla

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Roman philosopher Seneca once said, "A change of place imparts new vigor to the mind."

Well-traveled utilityman Jose Bautista(notes) would most certainly agree.

A human hot potato, the outfielder/corner infielder has been passed around often during his six-year major league career. During that span he's donned five different jerseys. When he finally planted roots in Pittsburgh, only marginal numbers were achieved. His .254-15-63-75-6 campaign in 2007, though respected by NL-only players, was largely glanced over by the mixed league masses.

However, his solid 2010 start shouldn't be ignored.

So far this season, the journeyman has wielded an effective bat. Operating primarily in the seventh spot after a brief, unproductive experiment at leadoff, he's clubbed seven homers with 23 RBIs, 19 runs and three steals. With runners in scoring position, the opportunistic hitter has thrived, compiling a .300 BA.

Unfortunately, based on his unsightly .211 BA, most unimpressed fanatics have immediately shunned the 18-percent owned commodity. To them, long make-out sessions with Betty White are more attractive.

But despite the unacceptable BA, the 29-year-old is mixed-league rosterable. Adam Dunn(notes), Dan Uggla(notes) and Chris Young are just a few examples of low average players who've historically reaped tremendous fortunes for risk-taking owners.

Those who've already taken the Bautista plunge have been richly rewarded. According to Baseball Monster, he's performed at an identical level as Alex Rodriguez(notes) and has outpaced hyped crackerjacks Ryan Zimmerman(notes), Justin Upton(notes) and Matt Holliday(notes). Of course the sample size is small and the likelihood he will continue to outplay such proven commodities is minute, but he's more valuable than you think. Quietly he's on pace for a 32-106-87-13 effort.

Signs of a power breakthrough became apparent late last season. While most undedicated rawhide players turned their attention to the NFL gridiron, the Dominican import was flourishing. Over 96 September at-bats the championship difference maker crushed eight homers, drove in 18 and scored 19 runs, an explosion which likened to Ben Zobrist's(notes) in late 2008. For Bautista, timing was indeed everything. From

Bautista said the success he had during the preseason dates back to last July, when he teamed with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy to break down the outfielder's swing. Bautista was getting started too late and sporadic playing time did nothing to help his timing at the plate. By September, circumstances led to regular starts and Bautista began to take off.

"I was getting ready so late," Bautista said. "Now, I feel like I can attack the ball in any count, and I'm on the offensive at all times and I'm not going up there to the plate trying to fight for my life."

Once perplexed by offspeed junk, Bautista has become one of the game's best slider smashers. Couple that improvement with the fly-ball hitter's selective-aggressive approach (27.3 K%, 12.6 BB%), and he should yield useful numbers. As long as he continues to find open pastures with runners on base, Edwin Encarnacion(notes), once healthy, won't be a threat. Believe in the power surge deep leaguers.

For the international traveler, it appears Canada may finally be home.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 450 at-bats, .246 BA, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 60 R, 7 SB


Discount Den
Quality commodity owned in fewer than 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Aubrey Huff(notes), SF, 1B (18-percent owned): Because first base is an overloaded position, Huff may seem like an Olive Oyl in a group of spinach-consuming Popeyes. But his recent totals haven't been overly skinny. In his past 40 at-bats, the Giants cleanup hitter has collected 15 hits (.375 BA) with two homers nine RBIs and six runs. A return to the 30-HR plateau is farfetched, but his watchful eye (0.86 BB/K) and stellar contact percentage (86.3) point to a useful season, especially for owners required deploy a corner infielder. Currently the 15th-best first basemen in the Y! game, he should be considered a slightly less powerful version of Michael Cuddyer(notes).

Ooh Stream Weaver...
Widely available plug n' play starter heading into the weekend.

Tom Gorzelanny(notes), ChC (5/14 vs. Pit, 13-percent owned): Despite an unsupportive offensive cast, the former Bucco is off to a rousing fantasy start. Whiffing batters at a previously unthinkable pace (9.26 K/9), he's fooled opponents routinely with his well-placed fastball. No longer threatening innocent beers in the bleachers, he's also kept the ball in the park, an aspect which has plagued him in the past. His previous employer destroyed the Cubs in their last series, but in the Friendly Confines the still minimally owned Sloth-from-"Goonies" twin is strongly recommended.

Middle Relief Magic
ERA/WHIP savior, potential saves/wins vulture.

Daniel Bard(notes), Bos (18-percent owned): Revered by many deep-thinking fanaticals entering the season, the former top prospect may soon be viewed equally by those in less challenging formats. After a rocky first half of April, the hard-throwing 24-year-old has been lights out, striking out 13 in his past 7.1 innings. Outside a concerning 47.6 fly-ball percentage, his nasty fastball/slider combination is certainly closer worthy. If Jonathan Papelbon(notes) was beset by injury, Bard would turn into a top-15 closer overnight. Still, even in a setup role, he's worth at least four Budweisers on the Rod Beck Shooter Scale. Expect him to flirt with 90-100 Ks.


Image courtesy of US Presswire

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