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.