Peter Bourjos is one of the most underrated defenders in the Majors. He does not always choose the most efficient routes or have the best reaction times, but this man sure can run and make up for range. When stationed in centerfield, he compensates for whatever shortcomings he has in technique with his blazing fast speed.
How fast is Peter Bourjos exactly? The average home-to-first time for right-handed batters is around 4.3 seconds and 4.2 seconds for left-handed batters. Righty Peter Bourjos averages 3.87 seconds. To give you an idea of how fast this is, Jacoby Ellsbury averages 4.04 seconds and Billy Hamilton average 3.83 seconds.
Despite his speed, Bourjos has only had one 20-steal season. In fact, offense is his area of weakness (although he did lead the American league in triples in 2011 when he appeared in a career-high 147 games). A career .247 batter, it’s not helping much either that he has not been getting consistent playing time. However, if Bourjos does again get the opportunity to go out and play 140 or 150 games in a season, he will likely find his groove and use his speed to improve his offensive numbers.
Bourjos came over to St. Louis as part of the David Freese trade with the Angels. Back in his Angel days, he was slotted in the center field spot over Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Let me say that again: he was the preferred center fielder on a team that already had two proven center fielders who between each other had an 7 All-Star appearances, an MVP, and a Rookie of the Year award. Since the trade, he has formed a center field platoon with Jon Jay. Appearing in 98 games, Bourjos has commited only 2 errors in the past 622 2/3 innings.
In the future, what’s key for Peter Bourjos, offensively, is improve his ability to drive the ball to cut down on his perennial +50% ground ball rate. Even more important is for him to develop better instincts on the base paths, then we could potentially see a Dee Gordon-like number of steals. Defensively, Bourjos could prove his value as a center fielder by learning to track the ball better. Although already a very solid fielder, developing a better feel for how the baseball travels could make him a Gold Glover.