A Shot of Borbon

In this day and age of Internet coverage, it is hard for a player like Julio Borbon to get under-hyped. But that is exactly what has happened… and the deep minor league system in Texas is no doubt partially to blame. This speedy outfielder was selected 35th overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2007 draft. The former University of Tennessee star had a very nice college career and he actually slid a bit in the draft because of his adviser, Mr. Scott Boras.

Borbon held out after being drafted – of course – and appeared in just eight minor league games in his draft year. As a result, he entered 2008 with little pro experience. Undeterred, the now-23-year-old prospect hit .306/.346/.395 in 291 high-A at-bats and moved up to double-A where his numbers improved to .337/.380/.459 in 255 at-bats. Overall, Borbon stole 53 bases, but was caught 18 times. Unfortunately, his walk rate sat right around 5%, which is not really acceptable for a speedy/leadoff-type hitter. He did, though, keep his strikeout rate down around 11%.

This season in triple-A, Borbon got the ol’ walk rate up to 7.5% and really trimmed the strikeout rate at just 9.8%. Whether that is sustainable or not remains to be seen. It is impressive, nonetheless, given that it was done over 96 games. Borbon also posted a line of .307/.367/.386 in 407 at-bats. He stole 25 bases in 32 attempts.

Upon hitting the big time in Texas, Borbon has been on fire. Through 10 games, he’s currently hitting .485/.528/.636 in 33 at-bats. He’s also shown better instincts on the base paths with eight steals in as many attempts. Borbon’s small-sample-size numbers at the plate are clearly aided by the .652 BABIP but at least he’s taking a few more walks.

Clearly, Borbon is not this good. However, he certainly has the potential to be an above-average contributor to the Texas Rangers for quite some time. With limited power, Borbon has shown the ability to hit .300 and he has the speed to steal 40-50 bases in the Majors, especially if he cuts down on the caught-stealing rate. On the downside, he probably needs to show a little more patience at the plate to take full advantage of the offensive package that he offers. The club will certainly benefit by giving him playing time, as Borbon offers skills that are lacking on the club (plus outfield defense, blazing speed). His base-running antics could be especially valuable in the playoffs.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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Adam D
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Adam D
7 years 5 days ago

plus outfield defense? Rangers fans know that even though he is blazing fast, he typically doesn’t get a good first read on fly balls (although he makes up for that with speed), and does not have a plus arm. that’s why you’ll continue to see Hamilton, Byrd, Cruz, and Murphy get the lion’s share of outfield playing time. ask me again next year as Borbon could be a very good center fielder with more experience and at least an average arm.

Gary
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Gary
7 years 5 days ago

He’s like the Shane Victorino of..Being Shane Victorino.

MPC
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MPC
7 years 5 days ago

Murphy’s nothing special on either side of the ball so hopefully Borbon does get a shot next year.

phildo
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phildo
7 years 4 days ago

lol @ rangers fans knowing this after 11 games

Todd
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Todd
7 years 5 days ago

Bourbon’s arm is weeaak!

Whiskey a go-go
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Whiskey a go-go
7 years 5 days ago

Yeah definitely not plus defense. Horrible arm, takes bad routes to balls.

On the other hand, he looked very similar to Denard Span on a ball he pulled down the right field line for a double. Would love to see him duplicate Span’s numbers.

Matt
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Matt
7 years 5 days ago

Ummm you do realize the rangers are 3rd in the ML in steals with by far the highest success rate in the majors right? Also the rangers have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. I love borbon but neither speed nor outfield defense are lacking on this team.

GhettoBear04
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GhettoBear04
7 years 5 days ago

Apparently, the highest success rate of the past 40 years.

Rangers faithful have visions of him patrolling CF well enough next year to be able to through out the plus defender trio of Cruz-Borbon-Hamilton. Borbon was moved up pretty quickly, so here’s hoping that there’s still more development left in him (defense and walk-wise).

t ball
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t ball
7 years 4 days ago

How carefully did you read that? He’s talking about his minor league caught stealing rate, which was good but not great. Yes, he’s 8 for 8 so far in the majors, but was caught 27 times in the minors.

Paul Thomas
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Paul Thomas
7 years 5 days ago

Juan Pierre seems like a good comparison (and not just because of the similar-sounding names). Not a future star, but a contributor on a playoff roster.

Adam
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Adam
7 years 5 days ago

Jullio has more power.

Nick
Guest
7 years 4 days ago

And is a better defender.

Marc
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Marc
7 years 5 days ago

Texas has some good base runners on the team, which leads to the SBs but the club is in fact lacking in pure speed/base stealing ability… In fact, I was viewing the Texas game last night and there direct quotes from the manager stating how valuable Borbon’s work on the paths will be/has been.

Borbon has shown some rough edges on defense in the Majors but the reports also suggest he has the ability to be a plus defender.

Matt
Guest
Matt
7 years 5 days ago

The rangers have above average or better speed at every position but first and catcher(and pudge still runs well for a catcher.) Speed is not an issue. Andrus has 70 speed. Kinsler, Cruz, and hamilton all have 65 speed. Young, Murphy, and byrd all have 60 speed. Like i said, speed isnt an issue.

Lincoln
Guest
7 years 4 days ago

Marc, no offense because I think you usually do great work…but are you high?

You’re talking about a guy who averaged a walk rate around 6% in the minors, and IsoP’ed around .100 – despite being old for a couple of levels.

“Borbon has shown the ability to hit .300″…How? By hitting .307 in Oklahoma (which translates to a .261 equivalent average)? By hitting .337 in Frisco thanks to a .372 BABIP?

The one thing he has demonstrated a terrific ability in is contact…but he’s whiffing 27.3% of the time currently. He is really fast and should cover lots of ground in centerfield…but team defense is already the Rangers’ greatest strength.

He’s a hacktastic slap hitter with zero power. Nothing in his minor league resume supports the notion that he can be “above-average”. His big league career will depend on his defensive contributions because his offensive upside is an 8th place hitter.

Nick
Guest
7 years 4 days ago

To be fair, he’s been a pretty steady hitter throughout the minors, with wOBA’s ranging from .346 to .372 across 3 different levels over the past two years. Being able to jump from A ball to AAA, and maintaining a high level of offensive abiltiy is admirable in a prospect.

While his approach may not be perfect, his walk rate has improved in every level so far in his career, and he has enough speed to maintain a high BABIP in the majors.

Furthermore, his defense has always been rated very highly.

http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=474865

Even if he isn’t able to be an above average hitter in the majors, he could still be valuable due to plus defense in a skill position.

Before the season started, CHONE projected him to have a .303 wOBA and provided +5 run defense in center. That translates to 1.5 WAR over a full season. I would bet that with his strong season in AAA this year thus far, and his limited sample of success in the majors, his offensive projection would be high enough to project him as league average (2 WAR) player.

The Fonz
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The Fonz
7 years 4 days ago

Screw the Borbon kid…this smacks of Bonifacio with a side of Shelton. Let’s take a look at the annual Adam LaRoche Second-Half Show. Now THERE’S some value.

BP
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BP
7 years 3 days ago

Plus outfield defense? How much did he slip you under the table to say that? Sure, he has gone under the radar, you just proved your point because the reason the Rangers are using him as the DH because of his poor OF defense. Get a freaking clue!!

Or
Guest
Or
7 years 3 days ago

The Rangers are using him as a DH because Ron Washington doesn’t have a clue, and also doesn’t want to hurt his the feelings of his ‘veterans’. God knows we couldn’t insult such luminaries as David Murphy or Marlon Byrd.

Matt
Guest
Matt
7 years 2 days ago

to be fair, super fast cfers can still be terrible defensively(see jacoby ellsbury). Honestly Im not sure where borbon fits on the defensive spectrum, just stating that being fast doesnt make you a great defensive ofer.

Or
Guest
Or
7 years 2 days ago

Interesting point, especially seeing as Ellsbury is probably Borbon’s best comp.
However, I refer everyone to the link Nick posted.
http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=474865
I realize CF in Arlington is much tougher to play than CF in Frisco or OKC, but he’s done as well as any prospect can be expected to in those settings.

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