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How does somebody go from being a scrap heap pick-up to a perennial MVP candidate? If somebody knew the answer to these questions, I'm sure there would be a lot more players like Jose Bautista out there.
There truly is no career arc that is quite as unique as Jose Bautista's. And it all culminated with his unprecedencted 2010 season, one which virtually came out of nowhere. Then something very interesting happened the following season.
After he set the bar so incredibly high in 2010, Jose Bautista actually became a better player in 2011.
The home run total dropped off expectedly, but I don't think anyone could have foreseen that Bautista would actually increase his on base percentage by 69 points year over year.
When I step back and really think about it, it still astounds me how incredible the past two years have been for Jose Bautista.
After two consecutive MVP calibre seasons, what's next for Jose Bautista? More interestingly, how many home runs might he hit in 2012?
Last year, I foolishly underestimated Jose's power and predicted he would hit somewhere in the neighbourhood of 27 home runs. As it turns out, even Zips and Bill James missed the mark, but that's a prediction I'm very glad to be wrong about.
Here is a look at what Zips, Bill James, RotoChamp and FanGraphs Fans are forecasting this season in regards to home runs for Jose Bautista:
RotoChamp and FanGraphs Fans are a little more generous with the tater tots, but ultimately most of the predictions are in the same general neighbourhood. After two straight seasons as the home run king, folks are finally becoming hip to the ways of the great JoBau.
Barring an injury or some sort of freak slump, I think it's safe to say we can count on Jose Bautista to hit at least 37 home runs this season. I would even venture to say that's a very modest projection, considering what Bautista has done versus the competition.
I've always pined for Jose Bautista to move down into the cleanup spot, but he would need some protection in the three spot. It might be too much too soon, but Brett Lawrie seems like the ideal candidate to bat third. Alternatively, it's also a spot Edwin Encarnacion could find some success in.
In the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't even really matter how many home runs Jose Bautista hits, it's when and where he hits them. The onus will fall on John Farrell to find the ideal place for Bautista in the lineup as to maximize his potency.
It's a little ambitious to expect Jose Bautista to hit 54 home runs ever again. Even though the home run totals are now fewer and farther between, becoming less of a one trick pony and more of a complete player is an excellent trade-off.
All I'm asking is that Jose keeps the tradition alive and delivers at least one Jose Bautista-patented staredown this season. Bonus points if it comes against the Yankees or Red Sox.
Personally, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for 37 home runs by Jose Bautista in 2012. But if you had to venture a guess, how many times do you think Bautista will round the bases this year?