Often young players take time to become stars. It is rare to have players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, who fly through the minor leagues and are quickly successful at the major league level. Jose Bautista’s career is not like these two young stars. It took years of development and toiling between the major and minor leagues before he became the feared slugger, “Joey Bats” that he is today.
Bautista was originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round of the 2000 draft. He then spent the next three seasons in the team’s minor league system, until he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2003 rule five draft. He spent the 2004 season bouncing around like a pinball from team to team, never having a place to call home for long. He was first claimed off waivers by the Rays in June. Then he was purchased by the Royals, before being traded to the Mets. Finally, on the same day of the trade to the Mets, Bautista was packaged in a deal that sent him back to Pittsburgh. With all of this moving around, Bautista completed his first season batting just .205 with zero homeruns.
During his next season, Bautista spent significant time in the minor leagues. There he impressed, hitting 24 homeruns through two minor league levels. Finally after starting the next year in AAA, Bautista was in the league to stay. Although he hit just .235 during this season, Bautista began to show his powerful swing by hitting double digit homeruns each year in Pittsburgh.
In 2007, Bautista was finally given a jumpstart he needed, when after passing through waivers he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later. While this trade looked like nothing at first, especially after Bautista struggled initially with Toronto, it turned out to be a very lopsided trade for the Blue Jays.
Since the 2010 season, Bautista has been a perennial MVP candidate, a two-time silver slugger, and a four-time all-star. He has become one of the most powerful sluggers in the game. He led the league in homeruns in both 2010 and 2011 by hitting 97 combined homers. Even though he missed parts of the last two seasons with injury, he has remained a force at the plate hitting 27 and 28 homeruns respectively.
While the start of his career was a great struggle, Bautista’s time with Toronto shows that players can still produce even if they struggle initially. He is a potent slugger in the heart of the Blue Jays lineup and can instantly change the game. It took awhile, but Bautista proves with every swing that it was definitely worth the wait.
Statistics and Transaction Information Provided by Baseball Reference