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Key Stats: What are the chances of Michael Bourn being worse in 2010 versus being better or the same. Last year he was a top 70 player, so that would put him well ahead of the 110th player in the draft as Tristan Cockcroft is ranking him. Last year was far and away his best season, but I don’t see why he can’t do it again. Bourn is only 27 years old so the 61 steal speed won’t be anything he’ll lose just yet. Swiping all those bags was possible becaues Bourn had almost 700 plate appearances or more than 150 more than he had in 2008. Given that he is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, he is not going to be platooning with anyone so he’ll get the 600 at bats again with good health. Misfortune can happen to any player, but with Bourn there isn’t a lot of past injury concern to worry about.

Skeptics Say: Bourn was in good favor with the BABIP gods last year as he had a .367 BABIP which was 76 points higher than it was in 2008. It doesn’t mean that Bourn’s BABIP will come crashing down though. Bourn was clearly focused on hitting more ground balls and utilizing his speed to get on base last year. His ground ball to fly ball rate moved from 1.84 to 2.68. So long as he doesn’t buy into the whole chicks dig the long ball mantra and go Willy Mays Hays on us, his BABIP should remain pretty high, but maybe not this high. Look for about a 10-15 point drop in overall batting average.

Peer Comparison: Bourn was second in MLB in stolen bases last season which is an impressive feat by itself. What could be even more important as an indication of how much he will run going forward is how often he got caught. Among the seven players who stole 40 or more bases, Bourn was tied with the only player who had more steals than him (Jacoby Ellsbury) and Rajai Davis for being caught the fewest times.

Ellsbury – 70 SB 12 CS
Bourn – 61 SB 12 CS
Crawford – 60 SB 16 CS
Chone Figgins – 42 SB 17 CS
Nyjer Morgan – 42 SB 17 CS
B.J. Upton – 42 SB 14 CS
Rajai Davis – 41 SB 12 CS

All of these guys with the exception of Figgins are outfielders. If you add Juan Pierre to the list it’s clear that there is going to be an arms race to makes sure an outfielder with 40 plus steals capability is on your roster. If you don’t have one of them or Jose Reyes, chances are the steals category will be lost. Some owners believe that drafting two of these guys is the right move because it locks up the steals category. I would stay away from such a strategy. All of them are missing at least two crucial categories. If you want to make steals a high priority draft someone like Matt Kemp in the late first round or Hanley Ramirez in the early first round who will provide steals with the extra stuff to give you a healthy balance.

Team Outlook: The biggest change for the Astros this offseason came when they hired Brad Mills as the new manager. Mills served as a bench coach under Terry Francona in Philadephia and Boston and also as a bench coach for Frank Robinson in Washington. He has never been a manager at the Major League level, but has managed in the minor leagues. The last team he managed for was the Las Vegas 51s in 2002 and his leading base stealer for that team was Joseph Thurston with 22 steals. It’s hard to tell exactly what his steals policy will be, but Mills coached with Francona for a long time which should mean that he sees eye to eye with his baseball philosophy. Francona sent Ellsbury a lot last year in the AL, so it’s likely that Bourn will have the green light with Mills coaching an NL team.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sporstline: #32 Outfielder; ESPN.com: #110 Overall; Yahoo: #31 Outfielder and #101 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #64 Overall; FB 365: #36 Outfielder

Projection: Only Reyes has stolen 60 or more bases in consecutive seasons over the last three years. It’s a challenge to stay healthy between the quick acceleration and hard slides necesessary to be successful. Bourn will come up just short of the mark this year.
91 R 3 HR 57 RBI 57 SB .274 AVG .740 OPS

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