What can Cardinal fans expect from Peter Bourjos in 2015?


Coming into the 2014 season, the Cardinals’ starting center fielder job was Peter Bourjos‘s to lose. Needless to say, the 27 year-old didn’t fully live up to expectations and eventually lost his starting role in the midst of Jon Jay‘s emergence.

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Bourjos couldn’t have set expectations much lower for 2015. After being the main piece in a 2013 trade that sent 2011 postseason hero David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, the outfielder disappointed with a .231 batting average, 4 home runs and 24 RBI last season. 

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The Cardinals have made efforts to address the outfielder’s struggles from last year, as Bourjos underwent surgery on his right hip in November. Within the last week, he was medically cleared to swing a bat and avoided arbitration with a single-year, $1.65 million contract agreement.

Yet evidently, Bourjos still has an undefined role in a crowded outfield that currently features Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward in the corners and projects to split centerfield duties primarily with Jon Jay and Randal Grichuk, all while touted prospect Stephen Piscotty looks for a promotion to the big leagues in 2015.

As a result, there is a strong possibility that Bourjos could test free agency next winter and an even stronger possibility that trade rumors from months ago could intensify. With many odds against him heading into the season, it’s difficult to tell what St. Louis can realistically expect of their outfield specialist in 2015.

One major surplus of Bourjos proves to be his defensive attributes. His defensive range has been among baseball’s best in his first five seasons, as he has saved 40 runs above average with a mean range factor of 2.73 since 2010. His fielding abilities are significant too, as only five starting center fielders posted a fielding percentage above Bourjos’s .990 mark last year.

With many odds against him heading into the season, it’s difficult to tell what St. Louis can realistically expect of their outfield specialist in 2015.

However, if Bourjos doesn’t enter late into a game for defensive purposes, he could be saved for pinch-running. The Cardinals only accumulated 57 team stolen bases in 2014, and Bourjos has only seven less than that total in his entire career. There’s no guarantee how often the coaching staff will give the speedster a green light to swap bases, but Bourjos gives St. Louis an intriguing late-inning option if they choose to be aggressive on the base paths and induce small ball scoring.

The outfield hierarchy will also likely limit Bourjos’s opportunities with the bat, meaning he will have to prove his value through pinch-hitting. After starting in only 40% of games in 2014, Bourjos was forced to deliver off the bench. He collected three pinch-hits in 2014, but may need to cut back on last year’s strikeout (78) and double play (5) totals to be trusted in offense-pressured situations.

With many factors considered, it’s difficult to predict if Bourjos will have a bounce-back year or another disappointing season. The outfielder will look to balance his athleticism in all aspects of the game and find his niche with the Cardinals in 2015. But unless major improvements are made in Spring Training, it’s fair to assume that he won’t patrol a starting role in St. Louis anytime soon.