Outfielder Peter Bourjos has battled injuries over the last few seasons, and a right wrist issue that required surgery limited him to just 55 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year. An offseason trade to the St. Louis Cardinals looks likely to bring an opportunity to compete for a starting job in center field, and Bourjos has stated a goal of 40 stolen bases this season if he gets regular at-bats.
Should fantasy baseball owners take note of Bourjos’ comment and expect him to emerge in 2014?
Jon Jay started 249 games in center field for the Cardinals over the last two seasons, and he is productive enough (.276, seven home runs, 67 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 2013) and hits right-handed pitching well enough (.291 last season) to maintain a prominent role as the left-handed hitting part of a potential platoon with Bourjos. Top prospect Oscar Taveras could also enter the mix for playing time in St. Louis’s outfield, and he should get every opportunity to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as long as his ankle issue from last year is behind him.
For Bourjos to maximize his potential as a stolen base threat, he will have to get on base more than he has to this point in his career (.306 on-base percentage) and his walk rate (5.4 percent last season, 5.8 percent for his major league career) leaves a lot to be desired. His contact rate improved a small amount last season (75.4 percent, 73.8 percent in 2012), though the improvement in his batting average (.274, .220 in 2012) was driven by a .346 batting average on balls-in-play (BABIP) and correction back toward his career level (.309 BABIP) is likely to come this year.
Fantasy owners in deep leagues that want to speculate on stolen bases can consider using a late draft pick on Bourjos, but his ultimate value will be driven by the level of playing time he gets and if he can stay healthy with regular at-bats. His elite level defense may allow him to pick up a fair amount of late-game playing time as a defensive replacement even if he is not in the starting lineup regularly, but that will not make a discernible difference in his fantasy value.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.