Yuniesky Betancourt was exactly the player for the Royals that the team should have expected him to be. On Sunday, that finally got him bumped from the roster, as he was designated for assignment and replaced by Tony Abreu from Triple-A Omaha.
Betancourt started at third base today and went 0-for-4, leaving him with a .228/.256/.400 line, seven homers and 36 RBI in 215 at-bats for the season. While expectations were that he’d be a utilityman after agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract over the winter, he started about 60 percent of the games of which he was on the active roster. He missed four weeks in May because of a sprained ankle.
Despite his struggles, he was actually the Royals’ best run producer this year, going strictly by RBI. He drove in a run every 5.97 at-bats, compared to one every 6.06 at-bats for Billy Butler. Jeff Francouer, in comparison, has one RBI every 12.58 at-bats.
Replacing Betancourt is the similarly hacktastic Abreu, who had a 69/14 K/BB ratio in 429 at-bats for Omaha. Some will suggest it means the Royals have given up on Johnny Giavotella after his disappointing 21-game stint earlier this season, but the Royals needed a backup infielder who could play short and Giavotella is pretty strictly a second baseman. The 28-year-old Abreu was hitting .322/.347/.492 in 429 at-bats for Omaha, while the 25-year-old Giavotella was at .332/.419/.498 in 313 at-bats.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.