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Michael Bourn has five home runs through 221 at-bats - four of them left the yard between May 22 and May 29 and three in a series at Great American Ball Park. His next bases-rounding jog will set a single-season career high. Last year, he added a helpful batting average to his speed profile. Will he build on the punch he has already added?
His 10 doubles say he's at least on pace to match his total in that category from last year. Factoring in the round-trippers, that's a noteworthy growth in extra-base ability besides three-baggers.
Warning: His 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, which already struggles versus southpaws, doesn't scream masher, and his 11.9 percent HR/FB by itself doesn't make this a valid spurt. When an approach starts leaning toward a bit more power, strikeouts typically come in more frequent bunches. Bourn has posted his lowest strikeout frequency since becoming a full-time player, and his plate discipline gauges haven't changed much, but he posted 28 whiffs in 126 May at-bats.
One scout queried by the venerable Jayson Stark doesn't approve of Bourn's recent outburst, saying that he has observed that the center field is lifting to center field often and might be ditching his traditional makeup. The myth of players performing at a higher level in a contract year has been a hot debate topic in the baseball world. Some might speculate Bourn is attempting to muscle up to show potential buyers he's more than a one- or two-dimensional offensive player. Maybe there's something to that?
Other statistical indicators, conversely, don't exude much concern. He's putting the ball on the ground often - in fact, he did more so during his power-boosted May than in April. More liners just seem to be getting more air under them, given his slight uptick in lofts and seemingly cause-effect drop in ropes. Though four of his five homers have been hit to right field (the other to center), he's slugging at least .507 to all fields, and ESPN's Home Run Tracker labels all of his knocks in the "Plenty" variety, which basically indicates that luck wasn't a major factor in his run.
Bourn is thieving plenty, but he's been caught five times in 19 attempts for, so far, his lowest success rate as a full-timer. Luckily, his volume is making up for that deficiency. Maybe if the arrests start to mount, you can become worried that he might steal, say, 30 or 40 instead of 50 or 60.
Still, he's not trying to be Willie Mays Hayes and won't be forced to do push-ups as punishment for hitting flies; he's fulfilling his leadoff quota while showing growth tendencies. This might be just power growth fueled by experience, not by physical maturity. Of course, there's a small chance it was a Cincinnati-aided spurt.
Reaching 15 homers, as his pace dictates, would be more than enough to supplement what he already offers and make Bourn one of the most profitable dollar-return players. Don't bank on 15, but don't be surprised if he gets there.
Though it's possible, Bourn hasn't yet displayed reasons to worry about him drastically changing his approach, becoming a Dave Kingman-esque hacker and failing to contribute to his expected elite level in your team's SB column. Even with batter's box regression, he'll offer at minimum what you expected, so no reason to avoid riding him unless you're overwhelmed by a trade offer or can spare steals to address other areas.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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