Jose Bautista is headed back to the Blue Jays after all. Now back in Toronto, what is his fantasy value heading into 2017?
All that drama for nothing.
After weeks of rumors and subsequent moves by the Blue Jays, it seemed as though Jose Bautista was on his way out. But, he is coming back home after inking a one-year deal with the club. So, what is his fantasy value heading into 2017?
Bautista picked a pretty bad time to have a down season as knee and toe injuries slowed him all season. He finished the 2016 season with a .234/22 HR/69 RBI/.817 OPS line. Last season was his worse performance since 2009, and those fantasy owners banking on him were disappointed. The lower half injuries clearly bothered him and limited him to only 116 games, so as he turns 36 next season, is it time for fantasy owners to worry?
Before last season, Bautista had played in at least 153 games per season the previous two years. But over the last five seasons, he has three years where he failed to reach 120 games played. Even though he takes tremendous care of his body, nine seasons on the Rogers Centre turf takes its toll.
Last season was his sixth straight season with at least 20 HR, though. But, his HR% was down and K rate was up to nearly 20%, the highest rate during his time with the Jays. He still drew 87 BB, a 17% clip, which allowed him to maintain a top-15 OPS from OF even in an abbreviated season.
Even though it was a down season, his batted ball data was in line with the 40 HR season he posted in 2015. He posted a 19% LD, 40% GB, 42% FB, 38% Med, and 41% Hard contact rate in 2016. Those rates are pretty solid and pretty much identical to his 2015 campaign, but the GB rate is high and it did play a big part in driving down his HR rate. But even with his nagging 2016 injuries, he was able to still square the ball up well.
His AVG is nearly impossible to predict. Since 2010 his averages have read as followed .260 in 2010, .302, .241, .259, .286, .250 and .234 in 2016. His BABIPs are all over the place, and it is just impossible to pinpoint it as a fantasy owner. The safest bet is to expect a .250 AVG, thus playing it safe and not expecting too much. But, most fantasy leagues should be using some sort of stat that rewards OBP or OPS, and that is where Bautista makes up for the AVG woes.
He will still play in a hitters ballpark, and the Jays lineup still has some thunder even without Edwin Encarnacion. The injury concerns are valid and fantasy owners will have to take them into account. His 22 HR on bad legs was an indicator that the power is till there nonetheless. He is probably not going to post those huge 40 HR/100 RBI seasons, but 30 HR/90 RBI are certainly in play.
The Blue Jays knew that they could not allow both Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista to get away in free agency. Their championship window is closing, but bringing back Bautista goes a long way in solidifying another run. He will treat 2017 as another prove-it season, so fantasy owners should target him as a discount OF3.