With Jason Bourgeois returning to the roster, the question arises about his role in the future. Since Bourgeois has quite a few fans among commenters at TCB, I thought it would be worth discussing one of the ideas about his role floating around the blogosphere. Chip Bailey, the fan blogger at chron.com, advocates playing Bourgeois almost every day by moving him around to different positions each day:
- Left field in place of Lee once a week.
- Left field while Lee plays first, Wallace sits against lefty (no more than once a week).
- Second base, Keppinger moves to third once or twice a week.
- Center field, giving Bourn a day off against tough lefty.
- Right field, once a month (no more) when Pence gets a break.
Theoretically, Keppinger could even play shortstop once a week, resting Clint Barmes, while Bourgeois gets another game in at second base.
I suspect some of the readers here may agree with him, but I'm not as enthusiastic for Bailey's suggestion. Although I like Bourgeois quite a bit as a 4th outfielder, I wouldn't turn the team upside down just to get him daily playing time. Doing so puts too much faith in his hot streak which has him batting .409 this season. But this is based on a .440 BABIP---which indicates that Bourgeois' hitting is due for a substantial correction in the future. During his 127 game career in the majors, Bourgeois' slash line is .263, .322, .332, .654. His Astros' slash line is similar: .277, .337, .339, .676. At 29 years old, it's unlikely we will see a new Jason Bourgeois. With his speed and base stealing ability, these slash lines indicate that he is a good role player and could be a nice starter in the outfield in a pinch. I think Mills can easily find a way to give Bourgeois two or three starts per week, but if you go beyond that role, he will be taking away playing time from Matt Downs and Chris Johnson, who are both younger and offer more power..Fangraphs' player page for Bourgeois also links to the May 2 Rotographs profile:
Jason Bourgeois has no power, like none at all. His career ISO (.065) would put him at 19th-worst in the category among qualified players this year and his minor league power rates don’t suggest that he has much upside beyond. He also dodesn’t walk a ton. His 7.4% career rate is below average, he hasn’t walked in 36 plate appearances so far this year, and his best minor league walk rate in a season with more than 200 plate appearances was almost exactly average – 8.0% in Double-A with the Mariners in 2006. There also isn’t much to get excited about in terms of pedigree or prospectitude. He’s 29 years old and has been shuttling between Triple-A and the majors for four years now. He’s your typical fourth or fifth outfielder – not really a center fielder according to defensive metrics, but without the power you’d expect from a corner outfielder.
I don't know if Matt Downs' production--currently leading the team in slugging with .508--is just a product of sample size or not. But his .279 BABIP indicates that there may be some room for improvement with more playing time. Personally, I would rather see Downs get more playing time at 2nd and 3rd base instead of slotting Bourgeois into a regular schedule at 2nd base--particularly since there isn't much evidence that Bourgeois can play 2d base well.
That's not to say that Bourgeois can't have a valuable role on the team. I agree with giving Bourgeois starts in CF when a tough lefty is on the mound, or when Bourn simply needs a day off. On those days when Lee plays 1st base to give Wallace a day off, Bourgeois is a good choice in LF, giving the Astros an imposing defensive outfield with Pence, Bourn, and Jason B. Pence probably needs more frequent days off--since he has gotten none so far--and Bourgeois could get time in RF too. Add in pinch running, pinch hitting, and coming in as a defensive replacement for Lee, and Bourgeois will have opportunities to help the team.
I also agree that a Bourn-Bourgeois duo at the top of the order creates an interesting speed/baserunning combo for opposing pitchers and defenses. However, that combo only occurs when Bourgeois mans a position other than CF.