LGT Community Projections: Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn. - Bob Levey

Next up is another player new to the Indians, coming to Cleveland in one of the most unexpected transactions of any team this winter.

Michael Bourn was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fourth round of the 2003 Draft. Bourn was drafted out of high school in 2000 by the Houston Astros, but he decided to attend, interestingly enough, the University of Houston.

Bourn had absolutely no trouble with the low minors aside from power; he hit .280/.404/.296 in the New York-Penn League after signing, stealing 23 bases in 35 games. Bourn hit an astounding 14 triples in his season in the South Atlantic League, stealing 58 bases in the process and hitting .315/.431/.467. The Phillies then decided to give him more of a challenge in 2005, jumping him up to AA Reading; although his strikeouts increased and power decreased, the 22-year-old held his own. By the end of 2006 Michael was in AAA and then afterwards in Philadelphia. A pure center fielder, the Phillies really didn't have spot for him, as Aaron Rowand was ensconced there, but served as fourth outfield/pinch-runner for Charlie Manuel's Division winners.


After the season, Bourn was part of a package of players sent to Houston for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett. Houston still had designs on contending, and Bourn was inserted into center field along such veterans as Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee, and Brad Ausmus. Bourn was awful in his first season with the Astros, hitting .229/.288/.300, but he played an excellent center field and played havoc on the basepaths when he did get on base, somehow stealing 41 bases despite reaching base only 144 times via a hit or a walk.

Bourn greatly improved in 2009, rounding out his excellent defense and baserunning with an adequate bat. Now getting on base at a .354 clip, he led the National League in steals for the first of three straight years. By the time he was trade from Houston to Atlanta (July 2011) he did just about everything except hit home runs. After the 2012 season, he became one the premier free agents on the market. Unfortunately for him, there were several good outfielders on the market, and when the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere, both center fielders, Bourn was like the person left standing in musical chairs; everyone either had their center fielder, or couldn't afford Bourn's asking, or didn't want to part with their first round draft pick.

Pitchers and catchers started to report to spring training in the middle of February, but Bourn still didn't have a contract. The Indians, who until then had seemed content with Nick Swisher as their big offseason acquisition, saw an opportunity and pounced. Bourn signed a four-year contract with the Indians for a guaranteed $48M.

Michael Bourn's main value is in his defense and his legs. He's won two Gold Gloves, and has consistently gotten excellent marks by both scouts and defensive statistics. UZR credited him with 22.4 runs above average in 2012, for instance, which is one of the highest rankings, regardless of position in the majors. He stole 42 bases in 2012, which was his lowest total since 2008, his first full season in the majors.

On offense, Bourn has generally hit around the league-average mark since 2009. He hits better against right-handers than left-handers, but his platoon split isn't enough to sit him against southpaws.

Historical Stats

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2006 23 PHI 17 11 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 1 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 -9
2007 24 PHI 105 133 29 33 3 3 1 18 1 13 21 .277 .348 .378 .727 86
2008 25 HOU 138 514 57 107 10 4 5 41 10 37 111 .229 .288 .300 .588 57
2009 26 HOU 157 678 97 173 27 12 3 61 12 63 140 .285 .354 .384 .738 97
2010 27 HOU 141 605 84 142 25 6 2 52 12 59 109 .265 .341 .346 .686 89
2011 28 TOT 158 722 94 193 34 10 2 61 14 53 140 .294 .349 .386 .734 103
2011 28 HOU 105 473 64 130 26 7 1 39 7 38 90 .303 .363 .403 .766 113
2011 28 ATL 53 249 30 63 8 3 1 22 7 15 50 .278 .321 .352 .674 85
2012 29 ATL 155 703 96 171 26 10 9 42 13 70 155 .274 .348 .391 .739 99
7 Yrs 871 3366 459 820 125 45 22 276 64 296 679 .272 .339 .365 .704 90
162 Game Avg. 162 626 85 153 23 8 4 51 12 55 126 .272 .339 .365 .704 90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/12/2013.

Here is what ZiPS is forecasting for Bourn in 2013:

ZiPS Projection
PA 689
2B 26
HR 6
SB 46
SB % 78%
BA/OBP/SLG .266/.330/.362

Which is in line with his last season in Atlanta; combine that with his defense, and he'd be a 4.0 WAR (Fangraphs) player.

Cairo predicts this for Bourn:

Cairo Projection
PA 680
2B 28
HR 6
SB 43
SB % 78%
BA/OBP/SLG .272/.338/.371

The counting stats are almost identical to ZiPS, but his rate stats are about 10 percentage points higher across the board.

I'm not going to stray that far from either of the two systems:

Ryan's Projection
PA 650
2B 25
HR 5
SB 45
SB % 80%
BA/OBP/SLG .257/.341/.374

I think he'll walk a bit more this year, though hit fewer extra base hits than his past couple seasons. Progressive Field is one of the toughest triples parks in the majors, so that will hurt Bourn some. He may struggle a bit due to the league change, but not much to skew his numbers much.

Your turn.

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