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Bourn to Run

As I sit here 30 pounds heavier and still feeling the effects of slipping into a pumpkin pie-induced coma, I am reminded by Zach Sanders’ End of Season Outfielder Rankings that we’re still doing our player evaluations from 2012 and it’s now time to get back to baseball. Obviously, there are plenty of interesting players in the outfield to sift through and discuss, but as I scrolled through, something that caught my eye and had me pleasantly surprised, was that Michael Bourn was sitting at number 16. While most head to head leagues and most of the ottoneu universe dismiss the importance of a burner like Bourn, roto league owners should be looking to grab him in 2013 and gain that much-needed edge in the stolen base and runs scored categories.

Let’s just start with some of the basic Bourn facts:

1. Bourn has stolen 257 bases over the last five years, 55 more than the next player, Juan Pierre, and hasn’t stolen fewer than 41 bases in a given year over that span.
2. Bourn has an 80.8-percent stolen base rate over the last five seasons.
3. Bourn has 428 runs scored over the last five years, 14th amongst all active MLB players, and has averaged just under 93 runs per year over his last four.
4. Bourn has 42 triples over the last five years, fourth amongst all active MLB players.
5. Bourn has a .280 batting average over the last four seasons and his OBP hasn’t dipped below .341 in that span.

With those facts established, I think we’re all clear on exactly what Bourn’s role is in the fantasy universe. He is strictly a one-dimensional player. He is not here to hit for power. He is not here to knock in runs. His isolated power and his slugging percentage don’t mean dinky-doo. All we care about his his ability to get on base, to steal like his life depends on it, and consequently, to turn all of that into a high total of runs scored throughout the season. If you’re looking for anything else beyond that, you can stop reading now and move on to another player.

Having a guy like Bourn means that, in all likelihood, you’re not chasing the category all year long. Stolen bases is one of the more moveable categories in roto leagues and with the growing number of players swiping 20 or more bases in a given year, the category gets super tight as the season moves along. Locking in 50-plus stolen bases on draft day, something very few players do these days, allows you to concentrate on other areas because, with Bourn in place, you’re sitting no worse than the top third of your league, depending on the rest of the guys you draft. He might cost a little more because of so few players with his ability, but that peace of mind throughout the season is well worth it.

And if you’re concerned with the drop to just 42 steals this past season, it would appear that free agency is going to fix that problem. Fredi Gonzalez is notoriously conservative on the bases and the Braves had just 101 stolen bases all year, 18th in the majors. If Bourn lands with a team that is a little looser on the bases, he’ll easily surpass 60 again. Both the Giants and the Reds have been recently rumored destinations and while the Giants would be a better fit what with Triples Alley and the funky dimensions out in right field, landing in Cincinnati wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as Dusty Baker, who is usually fairly conservative as well, has been looking for a burner to stick at the top of that lineup since Drew Stubbs went south.

They say that dominating in steals is one of the key components to bringing home a fantasy championship each year and drafting Bourn is going to put you one step closer to that goal.