Who might follow Bautista's unlikely path to slugging stardom?
How did no one see this coming? Simple: it had never happened before. The 29-year-old Bautista's single-season high in home runs entering this season was 16. Prior to this season, only one player had ever hit 50 home runs without having previously hit at least 20 in a season. That player was
Still, Bautista did fire a warning shot last year when, after having hit just three home runs through September 5, he went deep 10 times over the final month of the 2009 season including six in the last eight games of the season. With that in mind, one wonders if the 2011 version of Bautista might be announcing himself right now.
If you look below 10 home runs, however, you do find a few players who do fit the profile of next year's Jose Bautista. I'm not saying any of these players are going to hit 50 home runs next year -- the odds are overwhelming that they won't -- but if they do, you can say you saw it coming. In the meantime, they serve as a reminder of just how out-of-the-blue Bautista's season really has been:
Raburn is actually a surprisingly good comparison for Bautista. Both are right-handed utility players who have been used primarily as outfielders the last two seasons. Both are average in size (roughly 6-foot, 190 pounds), and Raburn is just six months younger than Bautista. Like Bautista prior to this season, Raburn's career high in home runs is 16, and he has hit just 38 in his career to this point (Bautista, who stuck in the majors at a younger age, hit 59 prior to this year). The difference between Raburn and Bautista is that Bautista hit his 16 homers in something close to a full season with the Pirates in 2006, while Raburn hit them in just 291 plate appearances for the Tigers last year, posting a .533 slugging percentage along the way. Given regular playing time in the wake of
Another utility man, though one largely confined to the infield, Betemit is a year younger than Bautista and has just 54 major league home runs to his name with a single-season high of 18, set, like Bautista's, in 2006. Once a highly-regarded shortstop prospect with the Braves, Betemit proved to be more of a third baseman by the time he reached the majors and thus wound up blocked in Atlanta by
Drew isn't a perfect fit because he hit 21 home runs in 2008, but he hasn't topped 12 in any other season and has just 62 in his career. Big things were expected from Drew, the younger brother of J.D., when he was a first-round pick in 2004, but with his age-27 season now mostly in the books, those expectations have mostly been dashed. However, that could allow him to sneak up on everyone with a breakout season in 2011. Like Rayburn, Drew hit eight home runs in August and has the added advantage of playing his home games in a ballpark that serves as a launching pad for left-handed hitters like himself. According to The Bill James Handbook, Chase Field's park factor for left-handed home runs from 2007 to 2009 was 115 (with 100 being neutral and 120 being the new Yankee Stadium).
Hall hit 35 home runs for the Brewers in 2006, but, honestly, who other than his mother and
No, I'm not really serious about this, but Betancourt did hit six home runs in a 12-game span in August and has hit nine home runs since August 4 after never before having hit more than nine in a full season. Betancourt, who is a little more than a year younger than Bautista, has 47 career home runs including a career-high of 16 this year and has a year left his contract, which makes him the incumbent shortstop in Kansas City heading into the winter and thus gives him a platform from which to launch his absurdly unlikely assault on the record books.