Peter Bourjos or Juan Pierre?

A couple of weeks back, I was talking to the great Carson Cistulli, and he posed an interesting question: Peter Bourjos, or Juan Pierre? Now, because of the nature of the conversation, I had to answer on the spot without thoroughly researching the topic (I’m not going to tell you what I originally answered quite yet, because I don’t want to spoil the punchline). However, it was such a good question that could be very relevant come next season, it deserves to have a bit more time put into it.

This past season, Pierre did what he’s always done when he has a starting job: be a fantastic fantasy asset. At 32-years of age, Pierre set a career high in stolen bases with 68. He also showed some of the best contact skills of his career, with a whiff rate of a mere 2%. While his contact skills stayed intact, Pierre had trouble hitting line drives, instead hitting the ball on the ground and lowering his batting average to a .275 mark. And, as always, you aren’t going to get any production in the RBI or HR categories from Pierre, but he did score over 95 runs for the White Sox.

On the other side of the debate, Bourjos was called up by the Angels at the beginning of August, with the hopes that he’d provide good defense in centerfield and be an offensive spark plug. While he wasn’t a spark plug, he sure was offensive. He barely reached the Mendoza Line in just under 200 trips to the plate, thanks to a bad strikeout rate and a lack of anything close to consistent line drives. However, he did steal 10 bases in his limited time in the bigs, getting caught three times in the process.

Bourjos also displayed some surprising power, hitting 19 homers in 648 total trips to the plate between Triple-A and the majors. The power production was something new for Bourjos, but it could continue to be in play as he matures. However, his power may limit his ability to hit for a high average, as he put the ball in the air far too often for a player with terrific speed. If he levels out his stroke a bit, his .228 BABIP is bound to skyrocket.

At the time, I told Carson that I’d rather have Juan Pierre, because he’s a known quantity who should continue to provide consistent production for at least two more seasons. After looking at Bourjos and Pierre a little more closely, I’m going to stick with Pierre for the time being. I’d like to see what Bourjos does with a larger sample, mainly to see if he works on leveling his swing instead of going for bombs (which Sam Miller of the OC Register thinks he will). If he can do just that, I might have a change of heart.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

11 Responses to “Peter Bourjos or Juan Pierre?”

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  1. Nick says:

    Pierre. No brainer.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I’m not sure it’s a no brainer. It greatly depends on how the Angels conduct the offseason, if room is left for Bourjos to man CF on a regular basis, there’s definite braining to be done here.

      I suppose right now Pierre is the no brain choice just based on job security, but there aren’t too many people who have to decide immediately.

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  2. Brad Johnson says:

    Why not both? Most fantasy formats will leave plenty of opportunity to grab both guys.

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  3. I’m a bit concerned over Bourjos’ K rates. They’ve mostly hovered just below 20% in the minors and he didn’t show much plate discipline at all in 181 AB with the Halos in 2010. More power that Pierre? Yes, but I’ll take my chances with a known commodity that will likely hit for a higher AVG, steal more bases and score more runs.

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  4. Paul says:

    The low LD% is an outlier. His rates in them minors were low, but the last couple years as his bat’s come on they have been 17 and 19% at AA and AAA, respectively. Super quick bat, ugly swing, ball really jumps. Almost any identical player to Drew Stubbs.

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  5. Scotty says:

    It really depends, are we talking fantasy or as a player? If it’s fantasy, Juan Pierre, hands down. He’s a proven commodity. If we’re talking player, it’s Peter Bourjos hands down. He’s the best CF in baseball already, has more range and as good of an arm if not the best arm in baseball out there. He’s also the fastest guy in baseball, this is coming from Carl Crawford. It was his first call up as a 23 year old, of course he’s going to stumble, he never got a full year in AAA, the Angels needed him because they were awful. However, I expect Bourjos’ major league numbers to hover somewhere near his minor league numbers, plus more SB because Scioscia loves his guys to be aggressive on the base paths. I’m thinking his career norms are going to be .275/.330 30+ DB 10+ triples 15+ HR and 40+ SB. He may not reach that for a year or two, but ultimately, Bourjos is the better player because of his defense and ceiling.

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    • AA says:

      Actually, the Angels brought him up not because they thought he would help them win, but because they were likely not going to pass Texas and wanted to get him comfortable with CF and Hunter comfortable in RF.

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  6. PG says:

    Scotty: I had no idea Bourjos was so good defensively. His UZR certainly supports what you said. I’ll have to make a point to watch him closely when I see him play next year.

    And in general, at least in terms of real life performance, I grew to respect Pierre this year. I’m a White Sox fan, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the trade to get him. But as the season wore on, I began to appreciate him more and more. He got on base, played solid D, never gave AB’s away, and was an excellent baserunner. I think he too often plays the scapegoat of the stat community.

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    • AA says:

      Bourjos put up some of the most ridiculous Total Zone numbers ever when in the minors. Comparing his defense to Pierre’s is like comparing Pierre’s arm to Raul Mondesi’s. Defense alone is going to guarantee Bourjos gets every possible chance.

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  7. LAprGuy says:

    Having seen full seasons of Pierre in the OF and a part-season of Bourjos in the OF, it’s no question that Bourjos is the superior talent, bar none. He might be the best outfielder L.A. has seen since … uh, maybe when Torii Hunter played for the Twins 10 seasons ago and visited twice a year? As far as an everyday outfielder goes, I can’t think of a Dodger or Angel as good defensively that I’ve seen in 30 years, but I’m going to guess that the Three-Dog, Willie Davis, is the best L.A. outfielder to whom he might favorably compare.

    Now can he hit? His numbers suggest, possibly. I’d rather take the chance with him than have Pierre (who went from Dodger Dog to fan favorite thanks to Manny’s suspension).

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