Toronto Blue Jays

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There haven’t been as many, if any, rags-to-riches tales as celebrated or astonishing as that of Bautista. He struggled as a journeyman major leaguer through his first six years, bouncing around one season through five different organizations and, after finally sticking for a few years with Pittsburgh, was given up on by the Pirates—traded to the Blue Jays one-up for the dreaded “player to be named later.” At first, he played with the same uninspiring commonality in Toronto—but suddenly, late in 2009, he corrected the timing in his swing and became, literally, a reborn baseball hitter.
After hitting .218 with three home runs in his first 86 games of 2009, Bautista hit .280 with 10 blasts over his final 27 contests. The splurge continued into 2010, and everyone took notice; it was hard not to given that Bautista slammed his way to a franchise-record 54 homers with 124 RBIs, raising eyebrows everywhere. In the age of steroid suspicion, Bautista’s sudden rise from nomad to All-Star—he had entered 2010 with a career .238 average and never hit more than 16 homers in a season—prompted plenty of murmuring over whether he was juiced up, but Bautsita denied it and his coaches and teammates swore by his natural cleanliness.
Impressed, the Blue Jays re-upped Bautista with a five-year, $65 million pact, crossing their fingers that his 2010 breakout was no fluke. Their hopes would happily be confirmed; though his home run total in 2011 dropped to 43 (which still led the majors), he had a more complete season—raising his average to a career-best .302 and walking 132 times, 24 intentionally. He was also given love from All-Star Game voters who checked his name a then-record 7.4 million times. Injuries curtailed his output from 2012-13, but he still managed to be dangerous when active—knocking out another 55 long balls in 210 games over those two seasons.
Along with the Blue Jays, Bautista waited a long time to get to the postseason—and when he and the Jays finally got there in 2015, he responded by hitting .293 in 41 at-bats with four homers—the most memorable of those being a series-clinching moon shot against Texas in the ALDS, topped by a spectacular bat flip that marveled the baseball public while greatly ticking off the Rangers. (Rougned Odor would respond for Texas a year later by landing a solid right hook to Bautista’s jaw during a melee started between the two.)

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