February 18, 2011
Jose Bautista(notes) and Adrian Beltre(notes) were two of 2010’s biggest surprises, turning massive profits for their investors. Still, despite their banner campaigns, fantasy players remain somewhat skeptical about their prospects for 2011, selecting both around pick No. 50 in average mixed league drafts. In today’s nail-biting Spin Doctors episode, Yahoo! M.D.s Brad Evans and Brandon Funston tell you which hot corner will provide the most sizzle. The Docs are in …
Evans shouts: It doesn’t take a Jeopardy!-crushing supercomputer to figure out Bautista’s downside. Prior to 2010’s unimaginable season, the journeyman third baseman was a smoldering pile of uselessness, posting vanilla numbers only an “only” leaguer could appreciate. Coming off a shocking 54-homer campaign, the 19th-best power output in major league history, almost every pundit in the industry has cast him as an undesirable pull-heavy fluke – Brady Anderson 2.0.
Though the Noise has better odds of scoring Brooklyn Decker than Bautista does replicating last year’s homer total, he’s still an undervalued and grossly misunderstood commodity. Based on his sky-high fly-ball rate (54.5 FB% in ’10), selective approach (0.86 BB/K) and RBI-friendly spot, it’s conceivable he will eclipse 40 homers in the encore. At 30, it’s highly unlikely he will devolve. Toronto manager John Farrell, who watched in horror as Bautista terrorized his Red Sox staff last year, is convinced. From the Toronto Sun:
Farrell spent a lot of time and effort last season game-planning against Bautista, without appreciable success. Bautista homered eight times against the Red Sox, second-most against an individual team.
“We tried a number of different things and we still saw balls leaving the park,” said Farrell. “Those are indications that this is a special hitter that he’s able to make those types of adjustments when you try to counter-adjust in the game within the game. Most importantly, when he got his pitch in the zone, he didn’t miss it.”
Beltre, too, is a terrific bargain. The Rangers hot corner will likely best Bautista by at least 40-50 points in AVG and contribute soundly in other categories. However, expect the bearded bomber to dominate the power department. A .260-40-115-100-10 followup is attainable. Throw in his position flexibility (3B, OF) and the alleged flash-in-the-pan is no fantasy scam.
Funston responds: For the first time, Adrian Beltre will play his home games in a park that is considered generous to right-handed hitters. Last season, he was happy to just be playing at the relatively neutral Fenway Park after serving five years of hard time in Safeco Field, a notorious emasculator of right-handed power hitters.
In Beltre’s past four full seasons, he’s hit at least 25 home runs, three of them while playing half his games in the toughest AL park to homer in. Batting cleanup in Texas, behind Josh Hamilton(notes) and in front of Nelson Cruz(notes), Beltre’s going to see quality pitches to hit, and he’s a good bet to once again finish in the 25-30 HR range, which I suspect won’t be too far off of Bautista’s ’11 total.
Bautista’s Isolated Power (SLG% - BA) mark of .357 was the highest in baseball since 2005. His HR/FB rate was second best in the league and right at 8 percent above his previous high mark. Those numbers aren’t sustainable. Clearly Bautista is no longer the player that reached no higher than 16 homers in his previous four seasons with at least 400 plate appearances. But I think it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll fall 20 HRs shy of last year’s mark – Bill James projects that exact number (34).
My argument is simple: If Beltre hits 28 HRs again, and Bautista hits mid-30s, I want the likely 40 points difference in BA and the rest of Beltre’s numbers – especially in that loaded Texas lineup.
Finally, don’t waste space in the comments writing about Beltre being able to produce at the plate only when he’s contract motivated. It’s a myth. Besides, Bautista was also in a contract year in ’10.
Images courtesy of US Presswire and the AP