Josh Donaldson put himself on the map in 2013 with the Athletics when he put up an .883 OPS while slugging 24 home runs and compiling 8.0 WAR (per Baseball Reference). He cemented his status as one of the game’s most productive third basemen this past season, when he hit 29 homers and was worth 7.4 WAR.
Donaldson wasn’t always viewed so highly. He repeated Triple-A twice after his initial stint in Sacramento in 2010. What helped him break out? He emulated Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista who, like Donaldson, didn’t break out until his late 20’s. Via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star:
“I probably watched thousands of hours of Bautista swinging,” says Donaldson, whose uses a similar leg kick to Bautista to generate power. “We don’t do everything exactly the same, but what I try to do is I try to see what he was successful with, and a couple other guys in the big leagues who were very successful, and try to (recreate) it into something of my own.”
Donaldson also saw something of a kindred career in Bautista, also a late-blooming star. “He was somewhat of a journeyman major leaguer until he landed in Toronto and I was kind of almost being labeled as a 4-A/Triple-A guy and then kind of breaking out a little bit in 2012 towards the end of the season, and then in 2013 kind of putting it together.”
Now the two, together, make up part of a fearsome middle of the order for the Blue Jays along with Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. Early projections for the 2015 season see Donaldson hitting another 26 home runs with 5.6 WAR while Bautista is expected to hit 36 home runs with 5.4 WAR.