Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Bautista could be the difference

October 6, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) rounds the bases after hititng a three run home run in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers during game one of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
October 6, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) rounds the bases after hititng a three run home run in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers during game one of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays may have taken awhile to get him locked down, but were happy to be able to retain Jose Bautista for the upcoming season, and possibly beyond. If he’s going to play like the “Joey Bats” of yesteryear, the Jays may have greatly benefitted from his down year in 2016.

So far so good for Jose Bautista this Spring, as he’s looked very locked in at the plate thus far, and even looks good in the outfield. By all accounts, he’s healthy and as motivated as he’s ever been to show the world that he’s still an elite player, and also to reach that elusive World Series.

While he’s been a staple in the Blue Jays lineup for more than 8 years, Bautista had his worst season in awhile last year, playing in just 116 games, his lowest total since an injury-shortened 2012 season.

Thus far, Bautista has looked like every bit the player that came into camp at the outset of the 2016 season, proclaiming that he had “given them his number”, them being the front office. Unfortunately for the 6 time All-Star, the injuries and struggles he went through last year came at the worst possible time, at least for his pocket book. While there’s nothing to sneeze at when it comes to the 1 year, 18 million dollars he ultimately got from Toronto (with option years), not many predicted he would fall as far as he did in the market.

Grapefruit League numbers aren’t terribly significant for a veteran like Bautista, but it never hurts to get locked in early, and he’s done just that. The powerful Dominican hit home runs on back to back days, starting on Thursday:

And Friday:

Again, these numbers will be forgotten sooner than later, but it’s great to see Bautista swinging a hot stick, rather than struggling out of the gate. While it’s a relief that the Blue Jays didn’t have to pay 20 or 25 million to retain the beloved veteran, they still need production out of their 18 million dollar man, and he looks poised to give it to them.

In addition to the positive signs on offence, Bautista has reportedly regained some strength in his shoulder. In case you’ve forgotten, he injured his throwing arm back in 2015 throwing to first base, and has never been quite the same since. According to Kevin Pillar, we should expect to see Bautista’s arm as a weapon in the outfield, as it was for many years prior to the injury.

"“Jose’s a hell of an outfielder. His arm is back.”- Kevin Pillar"

It might not be realistic to expect an MVP calibre season from Bautista, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to see him make his 7th All-Star appearance and put up numbers closer to his 2015 or earlier totals. He’s not far removed from being “elite” as he finished 8th in MVP voting as recently as ’15, and 6th in 2014.

Next: Blue Jays: How High Is Aaron Sanchez's Ceiling?

The key will be keeping his body healthy, something the now 36 year old works very diligently at. Last season’s injuries were both more of the “freak injury” variety, and hardly a result of anything related to conditioning. Unfortunately for professional athletes, sometimes you get hurt whether you’ve taken care of yourself or not.

In Bautista’s case, look for him to do everything in his power to put the best version of himself on the field. He’s got something to prove, and the Blue Jays are about to benefit, as long as he can stay healthy.

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