HOWARD MEGDAL: While I couldn’t say that I saw Jose Bautista’s 2010 season coming, it seems to me that the more surprising breakout offensively has to be that of Andres Torres over the past two years.
Bautista, while never approaching the 30 home runs he has already in 2010, had no shortage of power success in the major leagues, despite fighting injuries on a regular basis. 16, 15, 15 and 13 home runs may not seem like much, but this kind of power suggested that he was capable of breaking out to an extent. And he slugged .503 while hitting 23 home runs at Double-A Altoona as a 24-year-old.
In other words, Bautista entered his age-29 season with plenty of performance to indicate that he had power, and that injuries were holding him back.
Contrast that with Andres Torres. He entered his age-31 season last year with a .210/.258/.276 line in 285 career major league plate appearances. He posted a .648 OPS at Triple-A as a 25-year-old. He posted a .687 OPS at Triple-A as a 28-year-old. What were the chances Torres would ever figure out big league pitching, not to mention get the chance to do so?
Yet he has followed his 176 plate appearances at .270/.343/.533 last season with another 366 plate appearances of .279/.371/.498. His OPS+ over the past two years, 126, is equal to the career mark of Johnny Bench and just above that of Yogi Berra. Andres Torres!
So while Bautista was a talent, I had to go back and find out that this was the same Andres Torres who had 21 plate appearances, total, in the big leagues from 2004-2008. That he has become a strong regular player is a bigger surprise to me than even the league’s leading home run hitter, Jose Bautista.
CHRIS PUMMER: Torres’ breakout has been less surprising to me because when his minor league output is taken into consideration, his recent major league success seems like less of an anomaly.
Early in Torres’ career, he had no power. That includes his time in the minors, and his sporadic playing time in the bigs during the front half of this decade.
But the last few years, more of Torres’ hits have been going for extra bases. In fact, every stop the journeyman has made since 2007, he’s slugged better than .450 whenever he’s collected a meaningful number of plate appearances.
In other words, Torres is a player who found his power in his late 20s, making his recent progress to the majors not so unusual.
Bautista however, still looks way over his head. His continuing problems with making contact mean his batting average will likely continue to languish too near to .200 for comfort.
The power surge also seems destined to subside, and once it does, Bautista doesn’t have many tools with which to succeed as a major league player.