Taking the Next Step: Peter Bourjos

Last week my colleague Bryan Smith got an interesting conversation started in a post he titled The Next Step.  In a nutshell, his question was “what does sabermetric prospect analysis look like?” That question got a lot of good dialogue going, and I’m sure it’s something you might be seeing more of here at FanGraphs in the coming days and months.

Today I’m just going to approach it in the most back-of-a-napkin method as possible with a prospect who I feel is a tad undersold, and that’s Peter Bourjos, a center fielder in the Angels’ system. If you listened to the corresponding podcast we did about taking the next step in prospect analysis, you know that Peter Bourjos gets me all tingly for some reason. I think it’s probably because I’m the sort of person who likes to see players who fly a bit under the radar succeed, and I like players who I suppose you can call throwback types who may not hit for power, but can run and play good defense.

First, I dug up my trusty 2010 Baseball America Handbook, the 2010 Minor League Analyst and then surfed the web for different scouting reports. I even looked at some video on YouTube.  (Remember, this is nothing really scientific). From there I got enough info for me to put together this scouting report, based on the 20-80 scale.

Categories   Grades
Hitting      55
Power        30
Discipline   40?
Speed        70
Field        70

A quick rundown on each tool: Bourjos has some holes in his swing, but should make enough contact to hit about .275-.280 per season. He has gap power, but is very unlikely to crack more than 10 homers in a season. His selectivity at the plate improved, as shown by a 9.7% BB%, a rise of 6.2% from the season earlier. I put a question mark next to the grade because I don’t feel confident that he won’t walk more than 7% in the majors.

Bourjos’ speed and defense is his claim to fame, as I mentioned before. He steals a lot of bases in an organization that encourages being aggressive on the basepaths. He could improve upon his success rate, however.  His speed helps him to range almost effortlessly to balls that most outfielders would have to dive for. According to his Total Zone numbers found on MinorLeagueSplits.com, Bourjos has been worth 76 runs in just 363 games in the minors. That’s pretty freaking fantastic. CHONE projects he’d be good for 14 runs above average on defense now.

Putting this all together and assuming all goes well…

600 plate appearances, 42 walks, 117 singles, 26 doubles, 7 triples, 5 homers, 30 steals, 10 caught stealing = .318 wOBA.

  • Batting wins above average (.318 wOBA, league .335): -9 runs
  • Defensive wins above average: +14 runs
  • CF Positional Adjustment: +2.5 runs
  • Replacement: +20 runs

Total: 2.8 WAR.

That to me would represent pretty close to a perfect world scenario of what Bourjos becomes while under team control. I think Angel fans would gladly take that. Well, they would if Bourjos had a place to play, as center field is currently occupied by Torii Hunter. His downside would be something like a right-handed version of Endy Chavez. How is that for hedging my bets? There’s no shame in that considering Chavez has been worth about a win per year coming off the bench.

Anyway, this is HIGHLY subjective and I know opinions on prospects can greatly differ, so don’t stone me if you think I’m being too optimistic or pessimistic. This is just meant as more of a fun, quick-and-dirty way that you can use to get a glimpse of a prospect’s potential in terms of wins above replacement from information you can glean from their scouting reports.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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Bourjos really improved drastically last season. Before last year I thought he would be nothing more than a bench player at best but this year I ended up ranking him 7th among all CF prospects, I think Angels fans are allowed to get excited about him now…. http://fonzieforever.blogspot.com/2010/02/2010-top-prospects-pt-7-center-fielders.html