Armed with a cadre of young, premium talent, the Texas Rangers have a good shot a contending in 2010 and figure to battle for AL West titles for years to come. CHONE projects Texas to tally 86 wins while taking baseball’s short-stack division. And there’s more help on the way. ESPN’s Keith Law placed the Rangers first in his 2010 MLB organizational rankings, as did Baseball America’s John Manuel on his own list.
While the club’s embarrassment of pitching riches dominates the conversation, Texas has a home-grown center fielder who figures to greatly aid those highly-touted arms. CHONE forecasts a 2.8 WAR season for Julio Borbon, with his superb range translating to well over a win saved defensively. But what about Borbon’s bat?
A University of Tennessee star, Borbon broke his ankle a week prior to the start of his junior season and missed the first two months of the college schedule. However, he recovered and impressed scouts with his fleet feet enough to be a supplemental first-round selection (35th overall) in the 2007 draft.
Texas inked the Scott Boras client for $1.3 million, and Borbon made his full-season debut in the High-A California League in 2008. In 314 plate appearances, Borbon batted .306/.346/.395, walking just 4.8 percent of the time but making plenty of contact (10.3 K%). He also stole 36 bases in 43 attempts (an 83.7 percent success rate) for the aptly-named Bakersfield Blaze.
Borbon earned a promotion to the Double-A Texas League during the summer, where he hit .337/.380/.459 in 280 PA. His walk and whiff rates remained similar (5 BB%, 12.5 K%), and he showed a little more pop (.122 Isolated Power, compared to a .089 ISO in High-A). However, he certainly benefitted from a .370 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), and his base thievery took a hit (17 steals in 28 attempts, a 60.7 percent success rate).
This past year, Borbon split his time between the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and the majors. With Oklahoma City, he posted a .307/.367/.386 triple-slash. He didn’t split the gaps often (.079 ISO), but Borbon improved somewhat in terms of working the count. He drew ball four 7.2 percent of the time, while striking out 9.8 percent. With 25 stolen bases in 32 tries (78.1 percent), he also put his speed to better use.
Borbon spent a few days in the big leagues in late June and early July, but he arrived in earnest in August. Overall, he had a .312/.376/.414 line in 179 PA, walking 8.4 percent and punching out 17.8 percent with a .102 ISO. His BABIP was .360. Most importantly for fantasy folks, Borbon nabbed 19 bases in 23 attempts, good for an 82.6 percent success rate.
Given the sample size, it’s best not to infer too much from Borbon’s first foray in the major leagues. But, his plate discipline stats indicate that he had some trouble telling balls from strikes. Borbon chased 27.4 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25 percent MLB average), while letting ‘er rip on pitches within the zone just 55.5 percent (66 percent MLB average). Given his free-swinging ways in the minors, Borbon’s strike-zone judgment bears watching in 2010.
CHONE predicts that the 24 year-old will author a .297/.349/.400 line in 2010, with a 104 wRC+. Given a full year’s worth of playing time, Borbon should top 30 steals at a high-percentage clip. That makes him someone to target in mixed leagues. But as the old cliche goes, you can’t steal first. Borbon would be best served by showing a little more restraint at the plate.
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