The Peter Bourjos Dilemma
Give the Angels and Arte Moreno credit for stepping up at the deadline and doing what they had to do, signing their No. 1 draft pick Kaleb Cowart, even if they had to pay more than they would have liked.
That’s an encouraging move for the future.
In the present, meanwhile, they are faced with yet another dilemma.
How long do they stay with young Peter Bourjos in center field?
By now, everyone knows the back story here. Manager Mike Scioscia was looking for some kind of spark for his sleepwalking team, and nine-time gold glover Torii Hunter, always a team guy, reportedly volunteered to move from center field to right to make room for the speedy Bourjos.
At the time, it seemed like a good idea to almost everybody. Hunter could rest his 34-year-old legs and Bourjos, who was coming off a very hot month in Triple-A Salt Lake City, would get an opportunity to play center for the big club.
So how has the experiment worked out two weeks later? Well, defensively, it’s been great. Bourjos, one of the two fastest players in the organization (say hello, Mike Trout), already has a highlight reel full of terrific catches, covering more ground than anyone this franchise has had since maybe Gary Pettis.
The pitchers love him. The crowd loves him. Everyone loves him. On defense.
On offense, it’s been . . . well, a definite struggle. So far, the kid has appeared overmatched against big league pitching. No one is making a big deal of it yet, but he’s currently hitting .135. That’s 31 points lower than the much-maligned Brandon Wood.
OK, so he’s only had 37 at-bats and he’s probably pressing. But when you have eight strikeouts and only five hits, that’s not a good sign.
Some people are saying it doesn’t matter. The Angels are basically out of the race in the American League West, so why not find out about Bourjos now, instead of next year when they hope to contend again?
Well, here’s the problem: Bourjos is just 23 years old. Some day, the Angels would like to have him and Trout in the same outfield, making it one of the swiftest units in the game.
But if the young man continues to flail away up there, having fastballs whiz by him at an alarming rate while crackling curve balls buckle his knees, the damage to his confidence could be significant.
Such a big thing was made about Hunter’s move to right, the Angels would like to keep it permanent. But this is only mid-August, and with six more weeks to go in the season, can you really allow Bourjos to stay in an already limp lineup if he’s hitting under .150?
Maybe the best thing is to give the kid a couple of more weeks, try to get him to relax and maybe squeeze out enough hits so the average creeps up somewhere near .200. If that happens, they can stay with him.
But if it keeps on like this, if he continues to hit less than his weight, then maybe the Angels have to let Reggie Willits or someone finish out the season in center field and send Bourjos back to Triple-A, where he can get more seasoning.
The kid is exciting to watch in center. He has a great glove and natural instincts running down fly balls. But he’s still just 23 years old, and two months ago, he was hitting in the mid-.250s at Salt Lake.
The thing to remember is, when it comes to top prospects, there is a fine line between rushing them and demonstrating the proper patience. It is a delicate process and you have to be extremely careful going about it.
Check with one B. Wood. He would be glad to tell you all about it.
— STEVE BISHEFF