Dynamic Bourjos giving Halos spark
After adjustment, speedster getting on base with consistency
ANAHEIM -- When it comes to the young hitters on the Angels, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout have gotten the lion's share of attention this year. But there's another youngster on the roster who will be just as vital to the Halos' pennant chances.
As more heralded veterans like Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu have endured down seasons at the plate, 24-year-old center fielder Peter Bourjos has provided a much-needed lift from the bottom of the order.
Aside from a month-long lull that began in the middle of May, Bourjos has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Angels this season. And Bourjos has taken his game to another level in August, as the Halos attempt to chase down the Texas Rangers in the American League West. He's hitting .391 (27-for-75), with 16 runs, five homers and 10 RBIs in 19 games.
"I feel good at the plate," Bourjos said. "I feel like I'm having good at-bats, swinging at the pitches I should be, taking the balls. I just want to keep that going."
In an effort to inject life into his club's dormant offense, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made the decision about a week ago to move Bourjos from the eight-hole to the top of the lineup.
The change had an immediate impact on Bourjos, who's on an eight-game tear in which he's hit .500. He has homered in each of the past three games.
"He's been so consistent," Scioscia said. "The beginning of the season, there was a little bit of a lull, where his strikeouts were getting away from him, and he was struggling. He's made some great adjustments, getting his swing plane flatter, and he's just been terrific."
Just a year ago, it would have been difficult to see Bourjos having this kind of an impact. He finished the 2010 season with a .204 batting average and a .237 on-base percentage in 181 at-bats.
Those numbers were primarily the result of a slightly elevated swing. The swing allowed him to hit six home runs in his limited time in the Majors, but it also cost him points on his batting average and led him to strike out more often.
For a player whose greatest asset is his speed, Bourjos needed to tweak his approach.
"That's a big price to pay for maybe even six, seven extra home runs," Scioscia said. "It's been brought to his attention, and that's part of the things he's done with his swing. He's still driving the ball, but you're seeing a hitter with much better tools to compete and bring his talent level to the field, which is much more speed than power."
During a June trip to Seattle, Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher approached Bourjos with a suggestion: Lower your stance and flatten your swing.
"Now I have my hands kind of set, I've got the bat laid flat," Bourjos said. "It stays in the zone a lot longer, where I was in and out of the zone before."
Bourjos proceeded to hit .364 the 18 games following his conversation with Hatcher, and this month, he's beginning to show his full capabilities at the plate and his potential as a top-of-the-lineup player.
In his four games as a leadoff hitter this month, Bourjos is 10-for-19 with five extra-base hits, including two home runs, as the Angels scored 24 runs.
"His upside on the offensive side includes power," Scioscia said. "I don't know if he's going to be a classic 25-home run guy, but he's got good bat speed, and he's strong."
Bourjos' speed makes him an interesting candidate as an everyday leadoff hitter. It allows him go from first to third whenever a ball is hit to right field; any softly hit ground ball has the potential to become an infield single.
But he has still shown the power that makes you wonder if he might be better suited for a role as a No. 2 hitter.
"I don't know if he's ever going to be a classic leadoff guy," Scioscia said. "But he's going to be a guy that can definitely hit first or second, and I think he's got the chance to be a real dynamic run producer.
"There's no doubt that he's going to be a dynamic offensive piece."
David Ely is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.