One of the few international signings the Braves were able to make following the John Coppolella scandal, Jorge Bautista has shown flashes of his potential since joining Atlanta’s farm system.
Bautista signed with the Braves as a 17-year-old out of La Ramona, Dominican Republic, in July 2018. He was subsequently assigned to the Braves’ Dominican Summer League team where he posted a 3.18 ERA, but an ugly 4.91 FIP and 5.29 xFIP in just eight games and 11 1⁄3 innings. Bautista returned to the DSL in 2019 where he posted much better numbers, sporting a 3.86 ERA, 4.05 FIP, and 3.82 xFIP in 13 games, 12 of which were starts, spanning 53 2⁄3 innings.
Preseason report card
Coming into the season, Bautista didn’t make any of our preseason top prospects lists, primarily due to his age relative to his level — 22 at High-A — and his very present reliever arms. However, he was one of the more intriguing arms the Braves have at the lower levels, making him a prime candidate to follow along throughout the season.
What we saw in 2023
After sitting out in 2020 due to the pandemic, Bautista got assigned to the GCL team in 2021. While he got roughed up a bit, probably partially due to missing out on a full season of development like most players, the Braves saw enough potential to give him the bump up to Augusta after he posted a pitching triple-slash all below 3.00 in eight games with the GCL squad.
Coming into 2023, Bautista was solid at Augusta, sporting a 2.93 ERA, 4.20 FIP, and 3.48 xFIP while splitting time as a starter and out of the bullpen. He was later promoted to Rome where he looked to scuffle a bit, posting a 5.95 ERA across nine games — seven of which came as a starter. But, in reality, his 4.47 FIP and 4.29 xFIP suggested a much more middling performance, rather than the disaster caused by a low strand rate.
The interesting trend with Bautista is that the stuff seems to be there, but there’s always a learning curve for the righty once he reaches a new level of the minors. For instance, he struggled mightily after an initial promotion to Augusta towards the tail end of the 2022 season. He also initially struggled in the GCL. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues as we enter 2024 and he gets a bigger taste of Rome.
Hope for Bautista rests on his strikeout rate, which hovered around a quarters of batters faced throughout 2023, and actually improved when he went to Rome (but was drowned out by a massive spike in his walk rate upon promotion).
Bautista has the stuff to potentially profile as a middle reliever if he can ever put it all together. However, given his age and level, he’s going to have to show out at Rome fairly early if he wants to remain a viable candidate for the Braves bullpen down the road. If he manages to get the promotion to Double-A Mississippi at any point this season, Bautista can establish himself as one of the better relief prospects throughout the Braves minor league system.
Bautista is actually Rule 5 Draft-eligible this offseason, and the Braves declined to add him to their 40-man roster, leaving him exposed to other teams to pick him up. However, it’s very unlikely a team will take a flier on him this year, given that he hasn’t even hit Double-A yet. There are plenty of more pedigreed, more effective, and more eye-popping pitchers left unprotected that won’t be taken or carried the whole season, either.