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.
|162 Game Avg.||162||626||85||153||23||8||4||51||12||55||126||.272||.339||.365||.704||90|
Here is what ZiPS is forecasting for Bourn in 2013:
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:
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:
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.