While bouncing from Detroit to Atlanta to Florida to Arizona, Bautista struggled to shake his label as a reserve outfielder. The Dominican-born Bautista had no major weaknesses, but neither did any aspect of his game stand out. He had some pop in his bat, though it took several years to lift his batting average above .250.
Bautista spent his first three seasons with Detroit, collecting as many as 271 at-bats in 1995, when he hit .203 with seven home runs. In late May 1996 the Tigers traded him to Atlanta, but his season came to a premature end when a wayward pitch from Cardinals hurler Jeff Parrett broke his nose and a bone near his left eye. The following two seasons he saw action mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement and fourth outfielder for the Braves. He also got a taste of post-season action in his two full seasons in Atlanta, contributing a two-run single in Game Three of the Braves’ 1997 NL Division Series, and earning three starts in left field over the course of two NL Championship Series.
After being cut by Atlanta in spring training, Bautista signed with Florida in April 1999 and worked his way into a four-man outfield rotation when the Marlins lost outfielder Cliff Floyd for more than two months to a torn Achilles tendon. In 205 at-bats he hit .288 with five home runs and 24 RBIs. He enjoyed his most productive season in 2000, when an early June trade sent him to the Diamondbacks for infielder Andy Fox. Taking advantage of Arizona’s unstable right field situation, Bautista batted .285 while setting career-highs with 351 at-bats, 100 hits, 11 home runs, 54 runs scored and 59 RBIs.