On every team, there are a handful of players from whom much is expected, though their performance level does not necessarily meld with those hopes. The Lake County Captains have quite a few players of that caliber – for example, they have players like Dorssys Paulino, who was recently sent back to Arizona to learn a position change from infield to outfield to increase his potential within the organization. In a similar boat is 19 year-old infielder Claudio Bautista.
Though Bautista hasn’t succumbed to the fate of Paulino, he is a player that shows promise in the lower levels of the Indians’ organization – yet falters when he reaches the stage that is Lake County.
Bautista was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Indians on May 18, 2011, out of the Dominican Republic. He started strong in his initial seasons with the Dominican Summer League in 2011 and the Arizona League Indians in 2012, where he hit .225 (with a .285/.288/.573 triple slash) in 2011 and .273 (.368/485/.853) in 2012.
The 2013 season marked Bautista’s emergence onto the larger minor league stage, as he split his season between the Low-A lake County Captains and short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers. With the Captains, Bautista hit .157 (.204/.255/.459) with one home run, five RBI, eight hits, and two doubles. He performed much stronger with the Scrappers, hitting .272 and triple slashing .326/.416/.742. He hit four home runs in Mahoning Valley, with 68 hits, 16 doubles, four triples, and 24 RBI. He stole three bases, drew 20 walks, and struck out 55 times in 65 games.
He certainly has the potential to do big things at the plate, as evidenced by his Mahoning Valley stats. At 5’11” and 170 pounds, Bautista’s size does not paint him as the greatest hitter, though his unassuming strength and bat speed prove those assumptions wrong. His high number of walks demonstrates his knack at observing the strike zone, which makes him an asset as a hitter.
On the field, Bautista has the versatility to play multiple infield positions, though he spends the majority of his time at second base. He also spent time in 2013 at third, and has played shortstop during his tenure with the Indians, as well. He had a totally of 12 errors throughout all of last season between Lake County and Mahoning Valley, which makes him one of Lake County’s stronger performers during their error-riddled season of 2013 and earns Bautista the label of a fairly solid everyday player.
Thus far for the 2014 Captains, however, Bautista seems to be sinking back into his 2013 Lake County ways. He struggled offensively at the Low-A level last season in the 16 games in which he appeared with the Captains, and is currently hitting .195 in 32 games with the 2014 Captains. He has been described as a player prone to slumps and hot streaks, as evidenced when looking at his 2014 game splits. He embarked on a five-game hitting streak early in the season, which was followed by a peppering of hitless games combined with games in which he had strong plate appearances. Should Bautista be able to improve his consistency at the plate, he has the potential to become a strong hitter for the organization.
Despite the low batting average, Bautista has the fourth-most runs on the team this season with 14, fifth-most hits (24), the most triples (three), and falls solidly in the middle of the pack with one homerun. He’s knocked in 11 runs, ranking him as fifth-highest on the team, and is tied with Cody Ferrell for most stolen bases with four. He has committed only three errors this season.
Bautista is young. It’s constantly repeated that the minor leagues are all about development and honing skills, and Bautista is another prime example of this mentality. Much can be expected of him, though he is proving that he needs to get used to performing at the Low-A level before he can consistently deliver the strong performances of which he is capable. With his speed, unexpected strength, and demonstrated previous ability, Bautista is an exciting player to watch. It should be interesting to see how his plate appearances improve and gather stability as the season goes on and he works more closely with Lake County Hitting Coach Shawn Larkin.
Overall, Bautista is a prospect with potential, should he only be able to harness it and adapt to the upper levels of the professional baseball environment. He has demonstrated in rookie and short season ball that he has the potential to be a strong performer agh the plate and on the field – now, the only thing left for Bautista to do is put that potential into play.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer