Top Prospect #4: Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn made a somewhat surprising jump from Lakewood in 2004 to AA Reading in 2005 and he made the jump with relative ease. Now, he's poised for a jump to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre and should be ready for that challenge, too.

If you just take a quick look at the numbers that Michael Bourn put up in 2005, they don't necessarily jump out at you. When you know the real story though, they're pretty impressive, considering that he skipped over the High-A Clearwater assignment that most players make coming out of Low-A Lakewood. Granted, the adjustment wasn't easy and at the end of May, Bourn was hitting .251 as he tried to fit in with his new club. A hot month of June saw him hit .325 during the month and lift his season average to .281. Of course, there were more struggles ahead as Bourn endured a tough month of July when he hit just .218. The bottom line though is that through it all, Bourn played hard and never looked as outmatched as many players making that jump would look.

There was some talk about leaving Bourn at Reading in 2006, but the Phillies indicated during the off-season that he'll get a promotion to AAA Scranton for the upcoming season. As he did in 2005, Bourn and Chris Roberson are likely to have a friendly competition in the outfield that saw both of them take turns in right field at Reading. The competition seems to have been good for both players as both have put up good numbers in their battle to become the Phillies center fielder of the future, if they can push past Aaron Rowand.

'03 Batavia 0 4 .280 35 125 12 35 0 1 23 23 28 .404
'04 Lakewood 5 53 .317 109 413 92 131 20 14 57 85 88 .433
'05 Reading 6 44 .268 135 544 80 146 18 8 38 63 123 .348
Career 11 101 .288 279 1082 184 312 38 23 118 171 239 .388

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the fourth round of the 2003 Draft out of the University of Houston. Was originally drafted out of high school by the Houston Astros in the 19th round of the 2000 Draft.

Batting and Power: At Batavia and Lakewood, Bourn was an on-base machine. His on-base percentage tumbled at Reading, primarily because he wasn't able to draw the walks that he did in previous seasons. There is some concern over the number of strikeouts that Bourn had in 2005, striking out once every 4.4 at bats. The Phillies would like to see him cut that to where he would be under 100 strikeouts in a full season and they would especially like to see him walk more than once every 8.6 at bats like he did at Reading. Over his first two seasons, Bourn walked once every five at bats and it would be nice to see him get closer to that number again in 2006.

Baserunning and Speed: Bourn's on-base percentage allowed him to use his great speed to swipe 80 bases over his first two seasons. Obviously, since his OBP fell last year, he didn't have the opportunities to steal like he did earlier in his career and stole "just" 38 bases. He's got awesome speed and the more he can use it, the more valuable he'll be.

Defense: One of the impressive things about Bourn's 2005 season was his defense. He made just one error and was splitting his time between his more familiar spot in center field and shifting over to right when Roberson was playing center. The adjustment seemed flawless. Bourn was already an above average defensive player, but took that up a step in 2005. He's got a strong arm that opponents will learn not to run against.

Projection: Having Bourn stay at Reading would have defeated the purpose of having him skip Clearwater and there's no reason why he can't succeed at Scranton. The prevailing thought is that Bourn could be taking over the center field job in Philadelphia as early as next season, at least until Greg Golson is ready to play in the majors. Of course, at that point, Bourn could shift to right field and have Golson step into center, since Bourn adjusted so flawlessly to playing right field at Reading. Whether or not Bourn will be ready to start in Philadelphia next season still isn't a certainty. He may need at least a couple extra months at the AAA level, but then again, he's handled challenges well and could be completely ready for a Phillies uniform in 2007. There's also talk of either Bourn or Roberson being turned into trade bait, but Roberson may be the more likely one to be sent somewhere, since he's older. Roberson could also be turned into a utility type player, since Bourn and Golson figure to be the mainstays in the not-too-distant future.

Comparison: There's no doubt that the Phillies value Juan Pierre, but many scouts believe that Bourn could develop into the same type of player that Pierre has become in his career. Others compare Bourn to Jimmy Rollins, only with even more speed and the potential to get on base on a more regular basis.


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