The Angels have been looking for a full-time leadoff hitter since 2009 when Chone Figgins left the team and joined the Mariners. Since then, the team has used a rotating cast to fill their number one hitting spot to varying degrees of success. This season, the Angels are hoping their 24-year old center fielder Peter Bourjos can move into that spot for them this season and for the future. It’s a position he is comfortable batting in as he’s been batting leadoff since his days in high school. There are going to be some areas Bourjos will need to grow this season, however, if he plans on being the long-term solution for the top of Angels batting order.
Bourjos made the 2011 roster as a speedster whose defense would get him into the lineup for some spot starts throughout the season. Bourjos turned that limited opportunity into a full-time roster spot, finishing the year as the every day center fielder with a surprising pop in his bat, hitting for extra bases in 54 of his 151 hits. The one major weakness Bourjos had in his game last season was his lack of plate patience and low contact rate, just 75.3% in 2011. For him to become the leadoff hitter the Angels hope he can be, he’ll need to improve on his .327 on-base percentage from 2011, something the Angels believe he can do. Bourjos has shown an ability to display patience at the plate, with a .364 OBP in his final season in the minor leagues. He recognizes the need to improve this season, as well.
“I need to control the strike zone better, something I started to get a feel for later in the season, Bourjos said. “I feel like I took some pitches that I was chasing earlier. I feel like I’m starting to get a little more like I was in the Minor Leagues. I don’t know if I’ll be that way at the start of the season. Hopefully I am.”
The Angels are hopeful, too. The early plan for the 2012 season is to have Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis bat leadoff against right-handed pitching, while Bourjous will take the leadoff spot against lefties. As the season progresses, Bourjos will transition to leadoff full-time as he continues to improve. With his speed and flashes of power, Bourjos could become one of the premier leadoff hitters in baseball if he can tighen up his offensive game. Look for Bourjos to have a breakout season if he can put everything together as he has shown the tools to be a top talent for years to come.