Can Bautista get to 60 homers?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The tear Toronto's Jose Bautista is on this month is unmatched by any of the extraordinary things he did to baseballs in each of the previous two seasons.

Bautista's June line: 25 games, 14 home runs.

Because of this epic power surge, the question now becomes: Can the Blue Jays outfielder become the first player since steroid testing was implemented to hit 60 or more home runs in a season? The last player to accomplish that feat was San Francisco's Barry Bonds in 2001, and Bonds hit 73. Since then, Philadelphia's Ryan Howard has come the closest with 58 homers in 2006.

Bautista topped out at 12 homers in a month when he hit 54 homers in 2010 (though he did that twice, in May and August, while also blasting 11 in July and September). Last season, he hit 43 round-trippers, but he only hit double digits in a month once -- 11, in May.

That 60 homers is even part of the conversation is astounding after the way Bautista's season started out.

For the first time in his career, Bautista was viewed as a first-round fantasy talent -- owners were skeptical after 2010 -- and he was drafted as such. Then he came out and hit .181 with three homers in April, which likely had owners calling "Joey Bats" a fluke after all, albeit one baseball took two seasons to catch up with.

Since then, all Bautista has done is crush 23 homers in 53 games. To put that in perspective, only two other players -- Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton -- have hit 23 or more home runs in the entire 2012 season.

Bautista has played in every game for Toronto, and he's currently on pace for 55 bombs. To get to 60, Bautista needs 34 more in the final 86 games. As unreal of a run that would be -- 57 homers in the final 139 games, including an average of 11 per month in the final three months -- I'm not putting it past the slugger.

As we know, when Bautista puts his bat on the ball, it goes a long way into the air. Well, the 31-year-old is not only making more contact than he has in either of the last two seasons (80 percent contact rate in 2012, 78 in 2011, 79 in 2010), he's putting the ball in play 29 percent of the time, 3 percent more than last season.

The outfielder is still an extreme fly ball hitter (0.57 GB/FB), and his HR/FB rate is up to 22.2 percent from 21.5 percent last season and 21.9 percent in 2010.

Ultimately, Bautista's three-homer April likely will prevent him from reaching 60, but fantasy owners probably wouldn't be too disappointed if matches his total of 54 from 2010. I predict Bautista will slow down just a bit in July, hitting eight big flies, but he'll pick it up again with 11 jacks in August before finishing with nine in September. If he can do that, he'll end up with 54 round-trippers and many satisfied fantasy owners.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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