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Phillies 2016 Player Preview: Peter Bourjos

Ah! Look! A new player! Let us gather around him and wonder.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get to the numbers, let's consider what Peter Bourjos does do. He brings speed to the Phillies outfield and lineup. He can play any outfield position, and with Odubel Herrera getting center field, it seems Bourjos will be playing the corners - something he never has done before in the big leagues. He seems open to just about anything, which, on a team figuring things out like this, is probably a healthy attitude.

All right, let's get to the numbers.

They're not good.

Bourjos is not a hitter. He ended 2015 with the Cardinals dangling from a .200 BA and a .623 OPS. He only had 19 walks in 225 plate appearances and was 5-for-13 in stolen base chances. Maybe he's not as fast as I thought, because getting caught eight times tied him with Kolten Wong for the team lead in that category, and Wong got 362 more AB than Bourjos did. Even Carlos Ruiz threw Bourjos out stealing, and he had pretty much retired from throwing down to second base in 2015.

But Bourjos clearly made a huge impression on the Cardinals, as he... wait. Uh. Where'd he go.

Fringe prospects, utility infielders, fourth outfielders, bench players in general; they don't hope for bad things to befall their teammates, but they do know that an injury is a good way for them to get playing time. You'd think an injury epidemic at a certain position - a position that Peter Bourjos played, and was praised for his defensive skills by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny - would have led to an uptick in starts.

It, uh, didn't.

The Cardinals acquired Bourjos in the trade that sent WORLD SERIES MVP David Freese to the Angels. "A superb defender in center field," wrote ESPN's Jerry Crasnick of Bourjos at the time, saying Bourjos was "a strong candidate to take over the position from Jon Jay in St. Louis."

Bourjos didn't start well in 2014 for the Cardinals, hitting .160 in April and only reaching .220 by the end of the first half. Plans to make him a star were abandoned and he was deposited onto the bench. Throw in a few injuries and Jon Jay holding his own and Bourjos was suddenly in the dugout a lot more than he was on the field, by a lot.

In 2015, the St. Louis outfielders were dropping like fly balls in an outfield with no outfielders playing in it because they were all hurt. Jay was trying to retain strength despite an injury to his wrist, Matt Holliday was injured, and Randall Grichuk went down with right elbow problems. Bourjos got 19 starts from late April to late May, hitting a very un-Bourjos-like .278 with a .763 OPS. Even after Jay returned, there should have been an influx of Bourjos. Nope. At this point, even other teams who needed better outfield defense were probably asking about him.

The difference in the 28-year-old's playing time in the first half vs. the second half isn't too dramatic in regards to the number of games he appeared in (66 vs. 51), but his number of AB dropped by over 100 (149 vs. 46). St. Louis might have recognized that while a speedy defender has value, it wasn't necessarily in the batter's box - Bourjos only made six starts after the All-Star Game, though in 73 AB against left-handed starters in 2015, Bourjos did hit .274. While having less chances to raise his offensive numbers didn't help, Bourjos somewhat vindicated the team's move by sinking even lower, going 4-for-46 to close out the season. The Phillies snatched him off waivers and put a one-year, $2 million deal in front of him in early December.

I like Peter Bourjos. He's an even worse hitter than I remembered, but he always winds up on my team in video games because he's one of those players who is programmed to be safe during a steal attempt like 98% of the time. This does not translate to real life, and should not be a part of the criteria through which he is measured. But look at him go, using speed comparable to Mike Trout or a polar bear.

Peter Bourjos' St. Louis story came down to playing time, and why he didn't receive any. We may never know. But if there's anything the Phillies can provide him, it's innings. They will need players out there to chew through the long, long season, and Bourjos will have plenty of time to put himself on display and try to get a job elsewhere. The Phillies were able to convince the Blue Jays that an injection of speed in Ben Revere would be helpful to their playoff run, and if Bourjos gets time and doesn't slum it, he could be involved in a similar deal with a contender.

Or, Bourjos will play to expectations at the plate and become the same source of frustration that Revere had become at one point, neutralizing his biggest asset, speed, by never getting on base. He's on a short deal for a reason, a Jeremy Hellickson or Charlie Morton for the outfield, and stands to create value for the Phillies as a low-risk roster spot not necessarily a part of the future, or be bad enough that an exciting young player takes his place.