With outfielder Adam Eaton on the disabled list with a knee injury, the Washington Nationals promoted rookie prospect Rafael Bautista to the major leagues yesterday. He’s been on the radar for some time as a prospect; let’s explore his background and skills.
The Nationals signed Bautista from the Dominican Republic in 2012. He immediately distinguished himself for speed and athleticism, while showing the ability to hit for high averages at lower levels, batting .322 with 26 steals in rookie ball in 2013 and .290 with 69 steals in Low-A in 2014. Last year he managed a .282/.344/.341 line with 56 steals for Double-A Harrisburg.
Bautista ranked 15th on the pre-season Washington Nationals Top 20 prospects for 2017 list with this summary:
15) Rafael Bautista, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .282/.344/.341 with 45 walks, 94 strikeouts, 56 steals in 543 at-bats in Double-A; excellent speed, 70-75 grade; also a fine defensive outfielder with plus instincts, average arm strength; can steal bases almost at will when he’s going well; draws some walks but lacks power and not likely to develop much; fourth outfielder with speed/glove unless he shows more pop or proves he can keep his OBP elevated. ETA 2018.
The injury to Eaton has moved up Bautista’s timeline obviously. He was hitting .291/.325/.354 in 79 at-bats for Triple-A Syracuse before his promotion, stealing three bases but being caught three times this year.
Bautista is a right-handed hitter and thrower born March 8, 1993. Listed at 6-2, 165, he is a slap hitter with little power, collecting just 11 homers in 1776 minor league at-bats. His strike zone judgment isn’t terrible and he makes contact readily, but his approach is aggressive and his walk rates are marginal. Speed is his best attribute by far; everyone gives him at least a 70 and he knows how to use that speed both as a runner and defender. His arm is just okay in strength terms but is accurate enough to be playable in right field. He can handle left or center field without trouble.
Earlier in his career I thought Bautista could develop some power but right now that appears unlikely. Even with his current skill set, he should be a valuable speed/defense asset.
Nice video from Adam Hayes