Heading into 2013, if you needed a guy to provide some steals and not completely drain other offensive categories, there weren’t many better bets outside than Michael Bourn. Sure, you could point to elite guys like Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, or Jacoby Ellsbury. But outside of overall Top-10 caliber players, Bourn was about as steady as you can get.
Unfortunately, the key word above — was — hints that in 2013, things didn’t go great, and they didn’t.
If you insist on making the glass half-full, you could certainly point out an increase in power, but Bourn’s nowhere near a good enough power guy for that to be a factor. Really, Bourn’s value is centered around stealing bases and hopefully scoring enough runs and hitting for a good enough average to help your team’s standing in those areas. Can he still do that?
What are the Positives?
You might have noticed that 2013’s numbers came in only 130 games. Not only did he miss 32 games, but played hurt for much of the rest of the season. Certainly a healthy Bourn can be a little bit more productive, especially in stolen bases.
Heck, he stole 23 bags in 575 plate appearances, which works out to exactly one steal for every 25 times he came to the dish. In 700 plate appearances, that would work out to 28 and it’s really not hard to get that up closer to 40 if you assume he’d steal at a more prolific rate when healthy.
Looking beyond the steals, Bourn is also slated to bat lead off in what should be a pretty decent Cleveland Indians offense this year. They tied for fifth in runs scored in 2013, and while the guys lined up behind Bourn won’t remind anyone of the 1927 New York Yankees, they’re not bad.
- Nick Swisher: Never failed to hit 20 home runs in a single season.
- Jason Kipnis: Emerging into one of baseball’s rising stars.
- Carlos Santana: Averaged 22 home runs and 76 RBI since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2011. He’ll now be playing less at catcher, meaning more at-bats and making him less likely to tire down the stretch.
That should get Bourn plenty of good pitches to hit and provide him the help he needs to score 90+ runs, assuming he lives up to his end of the bargain.
What are the Negatives?
One of the big positives assumed that Bourn would be healthy in 2014.
Unfortunately, the season hasn’t even started yet and Bourn’s already found himself on the shelf. As far as apparently minor injuries go, that couldn’t be much worse. Hamstring injuries are an absolute pain because there’s no real set recovery time for them and unless you want to seriously risk another injury, you can’t play until it’s healed. A hammy injury would be annoying for a power guy like Chris Carter but for a speed guy like Michael Bourn, it’s 100 times worse.
Lastly, the absolute last thing you want to see from anyone, especially a speed guy, is an injury-plagued Age 30 season and more injuries before the Age 31 season has even started. Things can turn around, but we’re not off to a good start.
Also, the drop in average and OBP is pretty consistent with what some of his peripherals suggest should have happened.
Michael Bourn: 2009-2013
Line Drive %
There’s no big indicator of bad luck. In 2013, he was less patient, didn’t put the ball in play as much, and didn’t make good contact as often. So, he didn’t get on base as often in 2013 as he had in year’s past.
That could of course change, but it’s also a pretty good indicator of a declining skill set. If you’re banking on a turn around, the best thing you’re hoping for is that he can attribute 2013’s bad numbers to being banged up (very plausible) and that he’ll be much healthier in 2014 (not as plausible).
What’s Bourn’s Fantasy Outlook in 2014?
I don’t like saying this, but it’s not especially bright. I like Bourn. As a real baseball fan, I like the kind of player he is and would certainly not mind seeing him bounce back.
But the positives are overwhelmed by offsetting negatives.
If you end up with Bourn, I’d try trading him to an owner in your league who focuses quite a bit on name recognition. Realistically, if I’m looking for a steals outfielder, I’m looking at Eric Young Jr. over Bourn. Bourn probably does over more overall value, but EYJ is a much better bet to steal significantly more bases, and Bourn’s overall offensive prowess doesn’t exactly blow Young out of the water. Bourn’s average draft position is also about 30 spots higher than Young’s.
If I’m looking for a steals guy with better overall skills, give me Coco Crisp.
For me, it comes down to a few questions.
1. If you count on Bourn to bounce back, draft accordingly and he doesn’t, will you feel it? Realistically, Bourn’s not going in a high enough spot to where he’d really crush your team’s chances. Still, I’d rather gamble on a younger outfielder like Khris Davis, Kole Calhoun, or Avisail Garcia late.
2. If Bourn puts things together and you pass on him, will you feel it? No. Bourn’s ceiling at this point is probably about what he did in 2012, only with closer to 30 steals than 40.
So, if he’s got any fantasy relevance, it’s a minimal amount at this point. There are several other late-round options that can provide better value than what Michael Bourn can give you at this point.