Remember Jose Bautista?
When Bautista was 24 years old, the Pittsburgh Pirates left him off their protected list and he was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft. He spent his 2004 season on five different teams basically losing an entire season of development. Then three years later at the age of 27 the Bucs decided to bail on him. He was coming off a year where he batted .254 with a .339 OBA while hitting 15 HRs. In that season, he played 126 games at 3B and 23 in the OF. Curiously, in the 16 games he played RF, he batted .273 with a .385 OBA and hit five HRs. An anomaly, coincidence? Probably, but could it have been something more?
The year Bautista was traded he had no games played in the OF. At the time of his trading, he had hit .242 with a .325 OBA and 12 HRs. Which based on the same amount of plate appearances he had the year prior, he was on pace to hit 20 HRs. Considering he was 27 years of age at the time, but had lost a year of development being bounced all over baseball just a few years before, one could argue he was due to develop a little later than what was traditional. Two years later for the Toronto Blue Jays he hit 54 HRs while having a .995 OPS.
I’m not going to argue for such a power surge from Jose Tabata, but a little patience may be in order. One can not, and should not, have patience for a lack of hustle. Tabata displayed these negative traits on more than one occasion last season. But, if the Bucs can correct his attitude, then a little patience may pay off.
The first thing to remember is Tabata is only 24 years old. He’s played in three seasons in the Major Leagues while having a respectable OPS in his first two seasons – .746 and .711 before dipping last season. But, after the All-Star Break last year, he had an OPS of .747 driven by a .376 OBA. Tabata has not displayed power, but he has been a doubles machine. Last season, in what we all agree was a poor season, he had 26 extra-basehits in 333 ABs. Starling Marte for example last season in 167 ABs had 14 extra-basehits. Very similar numbers except everyone is high on Starling Marte and down on Jose Tabata.
I am not selling Tabata over Marte. Between the two I would take Marte every time – he just looks like a ball player and his defense is phenomenal. I am just lending some perspective and cautioning people not to count Tabata out too soon or the Pirates organization to give up on him too early.