Claudio Bautista Slowly Climbing Through the Minor League Levels
Laurel Wilder | On 29, Jan 2016
Claudio Bautista started in the Indians system five years ago, playing in the Dominican Summer League during the summer of 2011. He moved up to the Arizona League Indians for the 2012 season, where he hit .273 in 37 games. Bautista had six home runs during that stretch and eight stolen bases, indicating that he might just be a real threat to opposing teams. A late teenager during those inaugural seasons, Bautista was giving glimmers of hope that he could be a true future star for the Indians ballclub.
However, those early successes began to dull as Bautista moved up into lengthier seasons.
In 2013, Bautista found himself with the Lake County Captains. He opened the season with the Low-A club, but quickly appeared to be over his head. In 16 games, he hit only .157 with eight hits. It was decided that Bautista had been thrust into too much, too soon, resulting in a reassignment to the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers. With the short-season team, Bautista again found his stride as he tore it up in Mahoning Valley. In 65 games, he had 68 hits, 16 doubles, four triples and four home runs. Bautista found himself back in Lake County in 2014, ready to finish what he had started the season prior. Spending the season in Mahoning Valley seemed to be just what Bautista needed, as he returned to his former self in Lake County that season. He hit .249 in Lake County in 2014, with 13 home runs, 21 doubles, seven triples, and 115 hits. He stole eleven bases.
The 2015 season brought Bautista back to Lake County and he quickly showed that his past two minor league seasons primed him for a strong performance at the Low-A level. Bautista hit .300 in 64 games in Lake County, earning him a trip to the Midwest League All-Star Game and recognition as Indians’ Minor League Player of the Month for May 2015. 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 ten walks, and recorded 12 multi-hit games, as well as a ten-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 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 also earned a promotion to High-A Lynchburg during the 2015 season, where he finished the season. In 52 games in Lynchburg, Bautista hit .197 with two home runs and only three stolen bases. However, his performance should not be cause for alarm. At 22, Bautista is in the prime age of his minor league career. He hadn’t spent time above Low-A since he started with the Indians, so having a slightly lower output with the Hillcats isn’t alarming. It was Bautista’s first look at High-A pitching and his first experience with High-A fielding. He doesn’t have a track record of being a player who excels the moment he is set down at a new level; he’s a player who requires some time to get used to his surroundings and build up his confidence and plan of attack.
Bautista will likely start the season in Lynchburg, to again finish what he started the season prior. He is versatile in the field with a range that makes second base a strong option for him. However, being able to move between second and third could be beneficial to the infielder as the Indians work to develop the future of their infield. It will be a few seasons before Bautista gets a glimpse of big league action, but knowing that there is a versatile player down the line can be reassuring. Bautista may not be an in-your-face player, but he’s one to notice and keep tabs on as the season progresses and he continues to make his way – slowly but surely – through the Indians system.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN