Bold Prediction: Bourjos Will Make the Cardinals Look Foolish
This week the Crashburn staff will be posting our bold predictions for the 2016 Phillies season.
The St. Louis Cardinals organization has done a lot of things right over the last decade and a half. In 2003, they swapped one (admittedly great) season of J.D. Drew for a prospect you may have heard of named Adam Wainwright. They let franchise icon Albert Pujols walk when his free agent price tag became too unwieldy. Their player development staff has turned early-, mid-, and late-round draft picks into major league regulars at obscene rates. As a result, they’ve reached nine of the past 16 National League Championship Series and rapidly become America’s favorite team to hate. But contrary to what St. Louisans will tell you, the Cardinals are not perfect.
Unsurprisingly the list of missteps the Cardinals organization has made is much less extensive than the list of their successes. One of their more recent boo-boos was signing utility man Ty Wigginton to a two-year contract prior to the 2013 season only to release him half-way through the first year due to a complete lack of production. There was also a decade or so where they forgot to put a quality shortstop on their roster. Then, last summer they experienced their most embarrassing blunder in recent years with the revelation that a member of their front office illegally accessed scouting reports which were housed on the Houston Astros’ secure server.
My “bold prediction” is that in 2016 we’ll discover another recent miscalculation by the Cardinals was their complete mishandling of new Phillies outfielder Peter Bourjos. When the Cardinals acquired him via trade in November 2013, Bourjos was coming off four seasons with the Angels in which he was a roughly league average hitter (98 OPS+) and elite defensive center fielder who had been made expendable in Los Angeles due to the emergence of one of the greatest players of the current era, Mike Trout.
Rather than take the opportunity to see what Bourjos could provide with consistent playing time, the Cardinals quickly shoved him down their depth chart for two years in favor of other center fielders including Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk, and Tommy Pham. By the end, Bourjos had fallen so far out of favor that he was limited to just six starts in the entire second half of the 2015 season. Unsurprisingly, his production at the plate plummeted with inconsistent playing time.
Peter Bourjos’ upside may not be immense, but back in 2011 — the only time in his major league career that he received a full season of regular playing time — he racked up 5.1 rWAR and 4.2 fWAR which are borderline all-star level numbers. I don’t expect Bourjos will match his 2011 WAR figures this year with the Phillies in large part because moving from center field to a corner outfield position will strip him of some positional value, but also because he’s never come particularly close to repeating the power numbers he posted that season. But I do expect two things to happen with Bourjos this season: 1) he will receive the consistent playing time that he did not get in St. Louis and 2) he will perform at a level deserving of a starting role.
His defensive chops have never been in question and this spring he has demonstrated a continuing ability to both create hard, quality contact and make the most of that contact with his above average speed. If he carries this ability over into the regular season, he could make the Cardinals look absolutely foolish for giving up on him so fully and quickly. Ultimately, St. Louis got little-to-no production from Bourjos in the two years they employed him and then they lost him on the waiver wire to the Phillies for absolutely no return. It was a mismanagement of talent that is inconsistent with the Cardinals’ typically elite player development system and the Phillies now stand to reap the benefits.