08/02/12 12:37 AM ET
Speed, defense make Bourjos valuable commodity
By Bernie Pleskoff / MLB.com
Bourjos provides the tools required to separate an average team from one that can compete day in and day out against top opposition.
He can run. He can play outstanding defense. And yes, I believe he can hit.
Teams look long and hard to find a player like Bourjos. They are hard to find.
That's probably why Bourjos was highly sought at the recent non-waiver Trade Deadline. It's probably why he's still a member of the Angels.
Baseball is experiencing a major change.
The needs and requirements of rosters are different than five years ago. Some positions and skills are becoming very difficult to find and develop.
Sure, teams still covet the three-run home run. Even a solo shot is more than welcome. But finding those big, strong power hitters for traditional corner-infield and outfield positions is challenging.
For example, in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, seven first basemen were selected in the first round.
It wasn't until the 17th pick of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft that another first baseman was chosen in the non-supplemental first round.
Given the reduced availability of instant power, speed and defense have become critically important components coveted by contending teams.
A defensive miscue or two often thwarts great pitching performances.
That's what makes Bourjos so valuable. He saves runs with his glove. He creates runs with his legs.
The right-handed-hitting, 25-year-old outfielder makes things happen.
With his lightning fast speed, he can beat out a bunt or slow infield grounder. He can steal bases. He can take an extra base to get into scoring position or score a run. Those are valuable weapons for the manager to call upon at any point in a game.
Without a doubt, Bourjos can run down fly balls in the outfield many outfielders never dream of reaching.
He is an accomplished outfielder already, after having spent only parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues.
Bourjos takes efficient and effective routes to balls with natural athletic instincts and an ability to read the ball of the bat extremely well. He isn't fooled very often with fly ball trajectory.
But are great defense and blazing speed enough to sustain his Major League career?
At the level of his skills in those areas, the answer is a resounding yes.
When I first saw the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Bourjos, he was playing center field for the Class A Rancho Cucamonga club in the California League.
While I was scouting the game, I sat and talked with his dad, Chris, a professional scout who was scouting the game at the same time.
What I saw that evening opened my eyes.
Bourjos got on base with a bunt single, stole second and scored on a short single to right field. He made the defenders rush their throws. He caused havoc on the bases. I started scribbling in my note pad.
Defensively, I saw him chase down every fly ball hit in his area code and some probably a county away. His routes were direct. He got to balls effortlessly. He took charge in the outfield, just as any quality center fielder is taught.
If I had any concern whatsoever at the time, it was with Bourjos' lack of plate discipline. I thought he was overly aggressive at the plate and not showing enough patience. His pitch recognition needed work as well.
His walk rate was low, and his strikeouts were relatively high, but certainly not alarmingly so.
In 2010 at Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League, Bourjos walked only 24 times in 455 plate appearances. He struck out 78 times.
When he was promoted to the Angels in that same 2010 season, Bourjos walked only six times in 193 plate appearances.
Lately, I've seen improvement in his patience at the plate. While still not what it will be, Bourjos is aware that getting on base with a walk is an important element in putting his speed to use.
I have little doubt he will contribute much more offensively in the years ahead. He just needs more playing time and additional plate appearances to prove his capabilities.
Currently, Bourjos is best described as a fourth outfielder in Anaheim.
The emergence of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have given the Angels two very solid players to anchor the outfield, along with the veteran presence of Torii Hunter.
Playing time is more difficult for Bourjos to find with such outstanding offensive weapons available for manager Mike Scioscia.
Bourjos has to be patient and remain available to do what he does best. He has to help his team as a defensive replacement, as a pinch-hitter, as a pinch-runner and as a spot-starter. For now.
Bourjos is currently hitting .228 with three homers and 19 runs batted in. He has stolen two bases in three attempts. He has walked 11 times in 180 plate appearances. He has scored 20 runs.
I don't think Bourjos will ever be a power hitting, fence busting hitter at the plate. That isn't his game.
I do think it would be difficult to find a general manager who would not like to have a player with Bourjos' skills on their 25-man roster.
Athletic ability, baseball instincts and game-changing speed can't be taught. Luckily for the Angels, Bourjos has those qualities in abundance.
Bourjos could become an even more integral part of the Angels with a more prominent role in the future.
That's looking too far ahead. I really believe he will contribute a great deal more during the remainder of this season.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.