As Peter Bourjos was taking the field for his major league debut on Tuesday evening, the results of his career in the minor leagues were being parsed and dissected online. And as Halos Heaven minor league correspondent Ryan Ghan (who named Bourjos the Angels #1 prospect before the season began) pointed out, we may as well close the book on Bourjos as a prospect, he has arrived. Every indication is that he will be the everyday center fielder for the Angels for the remainder of 2010 and that the position is his to keep or lose beyond that. Juan Rivera and Hideki Matsui will likely platoon and Bobby Abreu will be the designated hitter when Rivera is in the lineup and take left field on the days a right-handed opponent faces Matsui in the lineup.
No matter how he performs at the plate, Bourjos' single biggest impact will be on the outfield defense of the major league club. In his first game he suddenly revealed something that the numbers had long caught - the Angels outfield defense was slow and terrible.
The problem in judging this fact without tools like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has been tougher on the eyes of Angels fans for one reason: most teams have one terrible outfielder. Many teams have one great outfielder and two not so bad ones. When all three of your outfielders are old and slow, it might not appear to you that they are that bad. The talk has been for some time that the Angels outfielders have lost a step, and we clung to that myth for months despite UZR's consternation. However, after two innings of Bourjos in center field was finally a glimpse of a superior defender out there among the senior citizens, the "lost a step" argument became "they've fallen and they can't get up." By the end of Tuesday's contest, the only reassurance that Angels fans had from the cold hard reality of grandpas Hunter, Rivera, Matsui and Abreu in the field was that this utter lack of range consistently spread across the entire outfield was one big reason the team is a .500 ball club and the front office is absolutely addressing it.
The club addressed it by moving Torii Hunter to right field, and his cooperation and public taking of Bourjos under his wing makes him the hero in this saga and will most definitely improve the defense for the Angels this year and next. Allowing Peter Bourjos to get 150-200 plate appearances in the big leagues will hopefully pay off in 2011. Like the Alberto Callaspo and Dan Haren trades, the Angels are using a disappointing 2010 as a rebuilding year, and are wasting no time in putting together their 2011 squad. They're reloading.