No one in their right mind could have predicted that Jose Bautista would hit for a piddly .203 AVG and strikeout a career worst 170 times in 2017. Surely the Blue Jays didn’t think Bautista would have such a poor season, as they felt confident enough in his skills to offer him $18 million.
So what exactly did go wrong with Bautista this season? Considering how much he’s meant to this ball club, and that he’s never had a season like this before, I feel it’s an important question to ask. Some might simply chalk it up to father time finally catching up with the aging slugger. That might very well be the case, but the answer as to what happened with Bautista might be a little more complicated than to simply label such a season as a player being past their prime.
It takes a special player to start 157 games in right field, all while hitting near the top of the order like Bautista did in 2017. Those kind of demands on someone may not be too much to handle for a player where age isn’t a factor, but for someone who’s 36, that’s an awful lot to ask of them. To make matters worse, Bautista also played in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic in March. In short, Bautista likely bit-off more than he could chew, and although the workload was no different than what he’d grown accustomed to in previous years, its something that finally took its toll this year.
As disappointing a season as Bautista had, one has to think this special player might have something left in the tank. I believe he can still be a solid contributor for another team in the American League next season…as long as he makes the move to DH (sprinkled in with a little time in RF) and is then able to concentrate mostly on what he needs to do at the plate.
Not to sound too gloomy, but 2018 will likely be Bautista’s last chance to extend his career and prove to the world that what happened in 2017 was a fluke, and had more to do with overextending himself, rather than him being over the hill.