In the spirit of trying to help and really give the public what they want, this ongoing series does, in fact, take requests. A few pairings have been mentioned in previous posts and have been discussed in the comments sections, so today’s was pulled off of Twitter (feel free to submit yours to @rotobuzzguy) and brought here for discussion. It’s more upside vs proven talent, but this time we’re talking speed….and a lot of it!
Trout has received an amazing amount of fanfare this season being just one month shy of his 20th birthday upon his call-up to the majors. People raved about his speed potential having swiped 56 bases in 2010 with another 33 in Double-A ball this season. His power, albeit not huge by any means, was also deemed “developing” as he knocked 11 home runs in 412 plate appearances this year in Arkansas, posting a .218 ISO. In 600 plate appearances between A and A+ ball in 2010, he hit a total of 10 home runs posting an ISO ~.150 for the entire season. Given the fact that it normally takes about 500 plate appearances for ISO to show any real predictive power, it’s probably safe to assume that his ISO should settle in close to league average, probably even slightly under. But let’s face it, Trout’s home run hitting capabilities are more of a bonus than anything else. It’s hit speed an on-base skills that everyone covets. Perhaps one day he could turn in an Jacoby Ellsbury-like season and add in one of those freak years where he does hit more than expected, but that should be the rarity more than the norm.
Bourn, on the other hand, is currently giving you exactly what you should have been expecting. He is a true burner, offering up 50+ stolen bases per season. He’s struggled with his batting average over the first few years of his short career, but is still seemingly improving in some of the other important areas. Up until this season, Bourn had shown a three year increase of his walk rate while simultaneously decreasing his K% as well. This season has seen a slight spike in each, but nothing that is too alarming or that should be deemed a red flag. His batting average and subsequent OBP (and wOBA) have fluctuated the most which is what his critics seem to knock the most, but with a steadily improved contact rate and slightly more disciplined approach at the plate, he should continue with his high BABIP/solid BA performance, thus maintaining strong on-base skills and hordes of stolen bases.
As always though, it comes down to cost, and all things being equal, it seems like Bourn is the better play here, atleast over the next few seasons. With the increase in overall stolen bases these past few years, Bourn seems to be one of those burners that people seem content to wait on in drafts. While they’re rushing out to grab Ellsbury in the 5th round, Bourn is coming off the boards no earlier than the 8th or 9th, on average, sometimes even lower. Sure, Trout was probably drafted much much later, but he is still a project; a player in the making who could still struggle at the major league level early on in his career. With Bourn, you know exactly what you’re getting and at what cost. Holding him from year to year allows you to draft a bit differently, knowing that not every guy you pick up needs to contribute in the steals category. He gives you a level of comfort, and even if he does struggle with the average a bit, you know he is still contributing in the category for which he was drafted.