Sep 18, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (24) hits as double during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Shagging flies in center field and stealing bases was supposed to come easy for Michael Bourn when the Cleveland Indians signed him in the spring of 2013. One of those things still comes fairly easily for the Tribe center fielder and one he is doing at an alarmingly low rate since he started patrolling the grass at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Lost seasons happen. They can happen for a variety of reasons. Most likely its injuries, and thats the same for Michael Bourn’s lost season in 2014. They came early and they came often for the (former) speedster. Hamstring issues derailed a season that was supposed to be the bounceback for the Cleveland Indians starting center fielder. He spent almost 2 months on the disabled list for hamstring issues, and even when he did play, it was generally uninspiring.
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Bourn came in to the year with 299 steals, a number that very few in this day and age will reach period. He has only stolen 33 bases in 2 seasons with the Tribe, which would be his lowest total for a full season by almost 20. He started the year on the DL as a precaution, giving him a few more weeks to get his legs ready, and it helped pay dividends immediately as he got started off to a decent start. His slash line in April was in line with his career averages, but in May he started producing better than he had before, hitting .303/.346/.414 but only ended up stealing 2 bases for the month. June brought numbers closer to his career ones and July was a month lost to injury. He returned from the disabled list in August and was generally unimpressive.
There were bright spots to Bourn’s 2014, even though they are not as easily seen on the surface. He tied Adam Eaton with 10 triples even with an abbreviated season, which might indicate that he has more a power swing than previously thought. He continued to play near perfect defense is center, posting a fielding percentage of .992 and accruing 5 assists, and with him playing such a demanding position, he could continue to play for years with the declining offensive numbers.
All in all, it was a down year for Michael Bourn and it leads to myriad questions about his future. Should he be moved down the lineup, given that his career .333 OBP is very low for a lead off hitter? Could he be traded by the Indians for future prospects? If the Tribe goes that route, they are more than likely going to have to front some/most of the bill financially, making it a sunk cost that may or may not be worth the hole in center. Bourn has proven that he can produce on the field, but is his defense alone enough to stay in a lineup? Is he better suited for a National League team, where double switches and pinch running are much more frequent and higher valued? Michael Brantley is a competent CF, and with the Triple A Columbus Clippers loaded with young outfielders, Bourn could be an expendable and expensive piece for the Indians in 2015.