About halfway through this past Central League (JPCL) season, I wrote about the interesting career path of Xavier Batista. At the time he deserved all the praise in the world for having turned his career around. The Hiroshima Toyo Carp slugger had gone from a prospect to out of baseball to a developmental prospect again (this time in Japan), and finally to a guy on the verge of stardom with the Carp. Batista represented not just a feel-good story, but confirmation that not all developmental paths are linear and he deserved to be highlighted for those facts.
The San Pedro de Macorís native deserves to be highlighted again if only to show that reaching success doesn’t mean your path is finished. The right fielder and designated hitter ran into a roadblock down the stretch of his 2019 season. Tough pitching nor injury was to blame, but rather a poor choice. In late August Batista received a six-month suspension from Nippon Professional Baseball, the governing body of the JPCL, for the use of a banned substance. The banned substance, in this case, was Clomiphene, a non-steroidal fertility drug that is mainly used as a masking agent for anabolic steroids. There’s no legitimate reason for a male athlete (outside of transitioning or something of that sort) to have Clomiphene in their system and thus Batista took his suspension quietly and departed from Japan with haste.
When the 2019 summer league season ended and winter league season began Batista took up the bat for Leones del Escogido in Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana. He hadn’t played for Leones in a couple of years and his lone season with the Santo Domingo de Guzmán based team hadn’t gone all that swimmingly. That was during a time when Batista was still working on developing his game as a prospect with the Carp’s farm team. This time around Batista was entering the Escogido lineup as a guy who slashed .269/.350/.513 with 26 home runs in 2019. Not world-beater stuff, but the numbers of a player who has clearly figured some things out.
Unfortunately whatever Batista figured out with the Carp did not carry over to his time with Escogido. The number of plate appearances may be small, 27, but a slash line of .136/.259/.136 with no extra-base hits whatsoever is concerning. It concerned Escogido enough that they traded him to Estrellas Orientales. Being an Estrellas fan I was pretty stoked for the deal myself, but my enthusiasm has thus far been misplaced. We’re only talking about 15 plate appearances, but in that small sample, Batista has only managed to hit .083/.267/.083 with, yeah, you guessed it, no extra-base hits.
Perhaps it is an issue of the approach that Batista has fine-tuned in the JPCL not translating to LIDOM play. There’s nowhere near as much pitching on the edges in LIDOM as there is in NPB in general. That’s not to knock the craft of any of the leagues in question, they are different pitching environments is all. The more patient approach that has worked so well for Batista in JPCL action has potentially put him at a disadvantage against the more strike down the pipe with heat pitching approach of LIDOM. That can’t be all there is to it, but it’s hard to find any other reasons for Batista’s struggles. Even if one makes the argument that he’s now off of whatever performance-enhancing drug he was trying to mask with Clomiphene that doesn’t really explain why he’s regressed so suddenly. Watching Batista he looks like the same player he was this past season with the Carp, albeit a little less present. I’m not really a hustle guy and I don’t think this is an issue of hustle, but it could be an issue of a player who’s head isn’t in a good space at the present time. All of these are possibilities, but none are definitive answers that explain why a once prized JPCL hitter has turned into an afterthought in LIDOM.
All the above issues taken into consideration the remaining career path for Batista is a whole lot murkier than the last time I wrote about him. The baseball community is generally guilty of ascribing linear paths for players. You have to go from a prospect to a star to an older veteran to retired or you have to go from a prospect to a washout. As a collective, we don’t allow much wiggle room when it comes to the path a player takes to success or even to the demise of their career. Batista has now been a Major League Baseball prospect, a washout no longer playing baseball, a developmental prospect in NPB, a burgeoning star with the Carp, faced a drug suspension, and a struggling veteran in LIDOM. Maybe this is the end for Batista and his play in LIDOM is who he is now. Or, maybe he’ll find his groove again and become a competent player for the Carp, or some team in some other league next year. We don’t know because linear is a ridiculous concept when discussing someone’s career. Paths are very rarely a straight line, Batista is yet again proof that we need to realize that.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Leones del Escogido