By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Peter Bourjos, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2011 season: 147 G, 502 AB, .271 BA, 72 R, 12 HR, 22 SB, .765 OPS
For the past few seasons, the Angels have had human highlight reel Torii Hunter patrolling center field for them. Several years down the line, many believe they will have the highly touted Mike Trout playing the position. In between those two, Bourjos might get overlooked, but he shouldn’t.
The 24-year-old proved to be one of the most productive center fielders in the game last season, hitting for decent average and surprising power considering his lean frame. He also was one of the best in baseball on the basepaths, even though his stolen base numbers left something to be desired. Baserunning is more than just steals – it’s tagging up, taking the extra base and breaking up double plays, all of which Bourjos excelled at. His real talent, though, is in the field, where he arguably played the best defense of any center fielder in the league. With Hunter aging, Bourjos took over in center and gave the Angels an elite outfield presence again.
With his speed, Bourjos profiles as a potential top-of-the-order hitter in the future. But in order to reach that ceiling, he will have to improve his approach at the plate. He walked just 32 times last year, less than six percent of the time (the league average last season was a tick above eight percent). He also doesn’t make as much contact as one would want from a speedster, meaning his willingness to lay off bad pitches is even more important. If he can get on base more often, he’ll have more opportunity to steal bases and generally cause trouble for opponents on the basepaths.
Overall, Bourjos profiles as a true center fielder who could top out with a .300 average, 15-20 homers, a boatload of steals and great defensive value. That’s a best-case scenario, which is never a smart bet, but the possibility is at least there. No matter what, Bourjos should provide the Angels with All-Star type production in the outfield, even if he isn’t necessarily recognized for it because so much of it revolves around his fielding. Trout will probably take over in center eventually, but for the immediate future, the Angels are in good hands with Bourjos.
Next up on March 14: Texas Rangers