Peter Bourjos: How the glove can help in fantasy

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The new Cardinal center fielder will always play, which ought to keep him valuable, even if he's only a mediocre hitter.

I have, on occasion, owned Clint Barmes and Jack Wilson in fantasy. I've never made a point to do it, but in desperate times, you know. If it gets down to it, and your choice is a Brooks Conrad type, who can hit occasionally but doesn't have the glove to play full-time, or a slick defender who can't hit much but can at least do quantity-over-quality, maybe you go that way.

And we know Barmes and Wilson can't hit. Peter Bourjos? We aren't totally sure.

Bourjos' first (and so far, only) year as a full-time player was 2011, when he put up a .271/.327/.438 slash line in 552 plate appearances. He led the American League with 11 triples, and hit 12 home runs, a number that surprised just about everyone. It was good for a 116 OPS+ and some level of optimism that Bourjos would become more than just an admittedly tremendous glove.

Now, the experts were not convinced. Bourjos had topped out at 13 minor league homers, and only had 38 in 2,070 minor-league plate appearances. In addition, he struck out 22.5 percent of the time, which might not be Adam Dunn/Mark Reynolds levels, but combining that with a walk rate south of six percent didn't inspire.

Either way, though - the injuries. Bourjos has missed 126 games in the last two seasons with wrist, thumb, and other injuries. When he did play in 2012, it was sparing - 195 plate appearances in 101 games, not even two a game, and he was awful (.220/.291/.315). Then last year, he generally started when he played, and was decent if unspectacular, putting up a .274/.333/.377. But with so much missed time, it's tough to draw much of any conclusion from his light playing time.

So now, it's 2014, and Bourjos is something of an enigma. We know he's one of the best handful of glove men in the outfield in baseball right now, which means, unless he keeps getting hurt, he's just about guaranteed a lineup slot - it's tough to hit so poorly that a glove like that becomes a net negative, especially if the gloves-are-for-decoration-only tandem of Matt Holliday and Allen Craig are the corner outfielders. But is he the 116 OPS+ of 2011, or the 72 in short 2012 time? Can he keep his strikeouts low enough to capitalize on his speed and reach base just by putting the ball in play?

I tend to the 2011 side of things, though like minds may disagree. But one thing really tips the scale in Bourjos' favor: his team. Bourjos is on the Cardinals now, and it looks like he'll hit second. There might be no deeper lineup or team in baseball than St. Louis, and hitting second means Holliday, Craig, Matt Adams, whoever else there to potentially drive in a super-fast Bourjos whenever he can reach base.

Which brings me back to my initial point. When you have a guy whose defense guarantees a full-time lineup slot, which is true of Bourjos so long as he's healthy, and he's in a lineup as stacked as St. Louis', then even if dude isn't helping you in batting average, and even if his double-digit homer season was a mirage, he doesn't really have a choice but to help you in runs and RBI.

And that's worst-case scenario. If a player's worst possible (healthy) outcome is being productive in two categories, that's worth at least a long look.

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