The Cleveland Indians surprisingly signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year, $48 million deal prior to last season, but he had a dismal first season in the American League (.263, six home runs, 50 RBI, 75 runs scored and 23 stolen bases) as injuries (right hand, left calf) limited him some. He had surgery on his left hamstring early in the offseason, but he recently declared himself 100 percent healthy.
Bourn was once one of the top stolen base threats in all of baseball, with 174 steals from 2009-2011, but he had 42 stolen bases with the Atlanta Braves in 2012 and the decline continued last season as his success rate also fell (66 percent). An aging speedster is always a risky proposition for fantasy baseball owners, but could Bourn recapture his identity in 2014?
Bourn had just 35 steal attempts in 2013, which was driven by a poor walk rate (seven percent) and a dismal .316 on-base percentage along with any leg issues, reported or not, that may have been bothering him. A batting average rebound would also help give him more opportunities to run, but a mediocre contact rate last season (74.9 percent) with a declining, but still good, batting average on balls in play (.338) means the .294 average Bourn posted in 2011 is becoming a distant memory.
Bourn will be in a position to be productive hitting leadoff for the Indians, and having a year of experience in the American League should only help him. Assuming he can stay healthy, I’m comfortable projecting 25-30 stolen bases, 85-90 runs scored and a batting average (.270-.275) that won’t hurt fantasy owners for Bourn this year, but much more than that should not be expected and he is no longer a player that can be kept in starting lineups based purely on his stolen base potential.