On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals acquired Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero from the Houston Astros in exchange for minor league reliever Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later (whom Jeff Luhnow told Brian McTaggart will be a key component of the deal). The acquisition of Quintero serves a clear purpose for the Royals, who are short on catching depth with Salvador Perez out up to three months with a knee injury. Royalty and the bourgeoisie have been a fantastic fit throughout history; does this continue with Jason Bourgeois and the Royals?
Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star what he specifically likes about Bourgeois:
“We like his versatility a great deal,” Moore said. “He’s somebody who has been very successful against left-handed pitching.”
Moore has done his research. Bourgeois had a .406 wOBA against left-handed pitching in 2011 and owns a .345 career mark in the split. Bourgeois also has the speed to handle center field (and of course more than enough for a corner). So if Moore wanted a fourth outfielder specifically to use against lefties, Moore found a solid option.
But it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Royals’ outfield, at least at first glance. The Royals have one left-handed starting outfielder, and that’s Alex Gordon. Gordon played like an MVP candidate last season and put up a .363 wOBA against right-handers — even if he comes back to earth in 2012, he should be good enough to warrant playing against righties. The other two outfielders — Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur — may be perfect platoon candidates, but they’re both right-handed. Francouer owns a .353 wOBA against lefties as opposed to just .307 against righties. So it would only really make sense if Lorenzo Cain exhibited a reverse platoon split.
As it turns out, he does. According to the data from the new version of Minor League Splits, Cain has performed better against right-handed pitching over the course of his minor league career, with a .296/.371/.421 line as opposed to .270/.362/.384 against lefties. It’s a minor split at best, enough where Bourgeois may be the significantly better play against left-handed pitching. This trend has continued through Cain’s short major league career as well.
It seems unlikely that Bourgeois will be used in a straight platoon with Cain. The Royals will need Cain to fill in for Gordon and Francoeur at times, and it would be in the Royals’ best interest to get more experience for Cain against all types of pitchers. He is the center fielder of the future, one of the pieces acquired in the Zack Greinke swap. Cain has the defensive chops to be worthy of playing time against any pitcher in the league. But Bourgeois gives the Royals another option with the speed to play all three outfield positions, and his ability to match up against left-handers suits the Royals’ roster surprisingly well.