Third Time’s A Charm for Claudio Bautista
Laurel Wilder | On 04, Jun 2015
They say the third time’s a charm. In baseball, however, making a third appearance with the same minor league team isn’t necessarily something to be excited about. Luckily, for Claudio Bautista, his third rendezvous with the Lake County Captains is proving to be the best one yet; he even went on record to say that his 2015 home opener was his favorite of his career.
At 21, Bautista is finally having his moment in the Indians minor leagues. He was signed as a minor league free agent in May 2011 and spent his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and with the Arizona League Indians. In 2013, Bautista got his first real taste of the minors as he opened his season with the Captains. However, in 16 games, he was hitting .157 with eight hits, a performance that cleared the way for his reassignment to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. With the short season team, Bautista fared far better, hitting .272 in 65 games with 68 hits, 16 doubles, four triples, and four home runs. It was clear that Bautista hadn’t yet been ready for Low-A pitchers, instead needing to find himself on the professional stage at a lower level.
In 2014, Bautista was again slated to play in Lake County. He spent the full season with the Captains, playing 119 games and amassing 115 hits, 21 doubles, seven triples, and 13 home runs. He hit .249 on the season, driving in 54 runs and stealing 11 bases. It seemed that Bautista had found his groove with the squad.
2015 brought Bautista back to Lake County, and he is quickly showing that his past two minor league seasons have primed him for a strong performance at the Low-A level. In 46 games, Bautista leads the Captains regular staff with a .313 average. He has 57 hits thus far, with 12 doubles and five home runs. He has already knocked in 25 runs and has stolen five bases.
In his first home game of the season, Bautista smashed a home run to break up a no-hitter being thrown by the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Bautista said he was just trying to help out his team when he made contact with the fastball.
“I was aware it was a no-hitter,” Bautista said of the hit. “I was focused and just went out there and had a great swing and had some fun.” He said he had never broken up a no-hitter before.
As the season has progressed, Bautista has kept his same composure at the plate. He has grown into a thoughtful hitter, describing how he looks for pitches that will allow him to take advantage of a situation and be useful to the team. After one solid double, Bautista said he has been looking for a pitch inside that would allow him to hit into the opposite field to drive a run home for the Captains.
And Bautista’s performance has not been ignored. A second baseman, Bautista followed in the footsteps of big league second baseman Jason Kipnis and had himself a stunning month of May.in fact, that Bautista was recently named the Indians Minor League Player of the Month for May. Bautista hit .368 for the month with 42 hits, nine doubles, three home runs, and 21 RBI in 114 at-bats. He stole four bases and drew 10 walks, and recorded 12 multi-hit games, as well as a 10-game hitting streak from May 16-26 when he hit .435. His batting average for the month ranked him first in organizational leaders, and he was also ranked first with 40 hits and second with a .417 OBP.
In the field, Bautista boasts versatility, though his range puts him best at second. He has three errors thus far this season, which is significantly down from his 17 errors with the Captains in 2014.
As the Captains head into the middle of their season, Bautista is emerging as a player to keep an eye on and watch for a possible promotion in the later half of the year. He’s still young, so taking the full year in Lake County is not out of the question. However, it looks like this is likely the beginning of the end for Bautista in Eastlake, and Lynchburg should, before long, be this infielder’s new home.
Photo: Brittany Chay/Fox Sports Ohio