As the Reds prepare for Spring Training in Goodyear, the equally powerful forces of optimism and pessimism tug at the heartstrings of all of us in Redleg Nation. If there was an area where the forces of pessimism may yield more power it relates to the depth of the bench, particularly amongst the Reds outfield. Currently, the Reds will take the field on Opening Day with an outfield of Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton and the newly acquired Marlon Byrd in left field. This means the Opening Day outfield will consist of a right fielder coming off a leg injury a second-year center fielder with a career OBP under .300 and a left fielder that will start the season at the age of 37 years old. Call me a pessimist or call me a realist, it is tough to envision this outfield starting 140-150 games together.
With Skip Schumaker having the inside track for the fourth outfield spot, let me introduce you to the man who will be battling for the coveted 25th roster spot: Jason Bourgeois.
Raised in East Houston, Texas, Jason grew up playing Little League baseball with major leaguers Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn. He was drafted out of high school in the second round by his home-state Texas Rangers in 2000, starting an eight-year journey to making his Major League debut in 2008 with the Chicago White Sox. In those eight years, Jason played for four franchises, including the Rangers, Braves, Mariners and White Sox. Following his debut with the Sox, he spent time with four more organizations, including the Brewers, Astros, Royals and Rays before landing with his 9th organization, the Reds in November of 2013.
Bourgeois defines journeyman, but with a solid Spring Training, the 33 year old has a chance to stick with the Reds for the 2015 season.
Bourgeois has displayed solid numbers in the minor leagues with a career batting average of .282 and an OBP of .341. However, in a little over 500 big league plate appearances, his numbers dip to a career average of .258 with an OBP of .303.
While those numbers certainly wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go far in exciting Reds fans, there are several aspects to JasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game that the Reds could benefit from, namely speed and defense. Bourgeois has over 300 stolen bases in the minors with 51 career steals at the Major League level. His best year came in 2011 while playing for his hometown Astros, when he stole 31 bases while being thrown out only 6 times. On the current roster, outside of Hamilton, the Reds have very few threats on the base paths. Bourgeois could prove valuable in late-game pinch running situations.
Another area where he can bring value is in his ability to play three outfield positions, and play them well. If Bourgeois is going to make the 25-man roster, he is going to have to prove that he can get on base effectively in late inning situations, steal bases, and play strong defensively across the outfield.
When the Reds break camp to head east back to Cincinnati for the home opener on April 6th vs Pittsburgh, they are likely to have 5 players on the roster capable of playing outfield. Assuming the Reds stick to their plan of giving top-end prospect Jesse Winker more time to develop in the minors, the two leading candidates for the 25th roster spot are Jason Bourgeois and Donald Lutz.
What these two bring to the table couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be farther apart; Lutz, a 6Ã¢â‚¬â„¢3Ã¢â‚¬Â, 250-pound left handed power hitter and Bourgeois a 5Ã¢â‚¬â„¢9Ã¢â‚¬Â, 190-pound right hander with 3 career homers in the bigs. Whether Bourgeois makes the team out of Spring Training could depend as much on the health of the other mainstays in the Reds outfield as his performance in Goodyear. Either way, one thing is certain, whether BourgeoisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ season starts in Cincinnati or Louisville, this journeyman is likely to have a few more stops along the way as his career continues.