Diamond Duels: Jose Bautista vs. Adrian Beltre

by Tim Heaney and Keith Hernandez on March 9, 2011 @ 12:05:10 PDT


Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Tim Heaney

Bautista's fantasy baseball player profile

  • His 54 party was a surprise but wasn't another Brady Anderson. Extrapolating Bautista's seasons in '08 and '09 would've pushed him toward 30 flights. Plus, we're talking about the new incarnation that clubbed 10 homers in September 2009 after Toronto adjusted his swing and encouraged him to be more aggressive. That innovation survived the snowy months and carried over to his breakout brilliance. He ranked third in the majors in fly-ball percentage last year and wasn't all that shabby in '09, either. Plus, he was playing through a sports hernia since May - impressive - and it was fixed in offseason surgery.
  • Toronto Blue Jays 3B/OF Jose Bautista
    Northern exposure
    Many talk about Texas' lineup and ballpark. Toronto has most of its top-10 offense back from last year and also breeds homers; they make the most of Rogers Centre. He didn't even lean on home base: He mashed 21 on the road. Need more? Three of the four parks of his division opponents facilitate offenses.
  • I won't even try to argue that Adrian Beltre is chiefly a contract-year player; that's false. But you're saying he's stable? He's already fighting another injury. He hasn't landed on the DL often, but he couldn't escape knee, thigh and wrist dings. He always seems to come up with some bodily damage during the season. Does Arlington bestow upon him a magical protective sheet of injury protection?
  • Despite his 2010 liner increase, a .321 BA was above Beltre's head and is unlikely to be repeated. Sure, Safeco Field hindered his ability, but before 2010 he hadn't hit higher than .276 since '04, his even more absurd career year. I don't want to trust an environment-dependent BA as a chief categorical advantage, especially given how much the stat can fluctuate already.
  • Power is becoming a premium resource in fantasy baseball. In the year this late bloomer led the bigs in taters, it was the season with the fewest homers per game since 1993. Grabbing someone who's coming off Adam Dunn contributions at an unevenly distributed third base pool? Can't hurt. His Dunn-like walk rate also makes this a no-contest in OBP leagues.
  • Biggest point of detractors' attacks: Bautista is a pull hitter and loved using the left-field bleachers as a bull's eye. As for the argument that he can only pull homers, he has proven he can take one big adjustment to his game in tapping into his power. Don't underestimate a vet with his strike zone judgment adjusting to pitchers' altering approaches against him.

Closing argument: No player will determine his 2011 buyers' fate more than Bautista. Repeat? Come on. You're not paying for a career year; with his current price, you're already accounting for a drop-off. Full disclosure: I'm positioning myself to avoid both of these players whenever possible, but because third base is so dry, I'll eventually wind up with this debate.

Siding with the better power source makes sense. Once a player displays a skill, he owns it. And this wasn't a 54-trot season from Juan Pierre. It came from a former part-timer who showed some crusher competence before finally receiving an opportunity and a renewed plate vision.

Beltre's seesaw performances can be violent. Even with Bautista's possibly precipitous plummet, I'd rather spin the wheel on a potential repeat of a game-changing performance than more of the same old, same old.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers

Keith Hernandez

Beltre's fantasy baseball player profile

  • The lashing I took in the Roberts-Zobrist debate will not go without some retribution, which I seek here. I have confidence that Beltre and his drop-to-one-knee homer pose can deliver. Playing in Boston last year was a paradise compared to the digs of Safeco Field, and his performance reflected that. 2011 offers an even friendlier hitting environment (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington) and another potent AL lineup.
  • Texas Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre
    Southern hospitality
    Don't buy into the whole contract-year bonanza as the explanation for Beltre's All-Star performance in 2010. Other than an abnormally high BA last year - which was aided by an incredibly high BABIP (.331) - his numbers aren't mind-blowing. The 102 RBIs - his first 100-RBI season since 2004 - was likely a result of playing in Beantown, but the Rangers offer similar run-producing opportunities. Subtracting his injury-riddled 2009 campaign, Beltre put up 20-plus jacks in six of the previous seven seasons. If that's not consistency, I don't know what is.
  • A bump in contact rate gives you some assurance that Beltre won't be a complete flop in the BA category, and even then, he gives you a great chance to eclipse Jose Bautista's BA contributions. Detractors may point to injuries as a cause for concern with the slick-fielding third sacker, but that's a dead-end argument; since 2002, he has played in under 140 games just once, and that was in '09.
  • Bautista's fly-ball tendencies were pointing toward an uptick in his power, but the 54 taters he delivered last year were completely unforeseen, and definitely won't be seen again. His previous high in deep flies before his breakout: 16 back in 2006. The power is there, but power approaching 30 bombs is more realistic.
  • Bautista developed an alarming tendency while leading the majors in big flies last year: Of the 54 HRs he hit, just one of them was to the opposite field. Opposite-field power, which is an indicator of real power, is lacking in his game. This, along with the absence of a track record to explain his power explosion, should make you skeptical when considering a prognostication for his output in '11. For some strange reason, I forecast a steady diet of soft stuff down and away in Bautista's future.

Closing argument: Because of their surprising statistical achievements from a year ago, it is likely that both Bautista and Beltre will be overvalued in your fantasy baseball draft rooms. However, Beltre's higher price is more justifiable given the lack of options at the hot corner. In Bautista's case, not knowing how far he will fall back to earth is perplexing.

KFFL staff verdict

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Fantasy Baseball Diamond Duels


About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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