Bourn's value remains high with Braves


The Philadelphia Phillies had made their outfield move, acquiring Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros a few days earlier, so now it was time for the team chasing them to act. The Atlanta Braves went to the same place to find speedster Michael Bourn, dealing outfielder Jordan Schafer and three prospects, and it's a move that should certainly aid the team's underachieving offense.

Bourn, a former Phillie incidentally, is a terrific center fielder and currently the league's top base stealer. He has 39 stolen bases -- seven more than anyone else in baseball. Bourn was the No. 99 player chosen in ESPN live drafts, but he's far outperformed that 10th-round rank, as he's No. 14 among all players -- seventh in the outfield -- on the ESPN Player Rater. Part of that is because Bourn is such a prolific base stealer, but the .303 batting average and pace for 97 runs are nice as well. And now he's on his way to a team with better hitters in the middle of the lineup.

Having a good OBP presence at the top of the lineup is better for other Braves, as Bourn will get on base at a significantly better clip than Schafer was. In fact, Braves leadoff hitters were scoring runs (14th in baseball for the leadoff spot), but with a .309 OBP (25th), they needed more. It should help the future RBI totals of Martin Prado, Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann, but those guys are mostly owned already. Only Jones is readily available in ESPN standard leagues. And while Schafer was handling center field better than Nate McLouth, Bourn is an upgrade defensively, which shouldn't hurt a hittable pitcher like Derek Lowe. But it doesn't make me want to add Lowe.

As for the 24-year-old Schafer, he had been struggling as the Braves' center fielder and leadoff hitter before fracturing the middle finger on his left hand, necessitating a DL stint. However, I actually like Schafer's future and have written and spoken highly of him this season; while he wasn't hitting for any power, Schafer had a stretch in which he was taking walks and stealing bases. He has 15 steals in 196 at-bats, a good rate. He'll likely never be Bourn, but this could be an Astros regular this season and for years beyond, and if he can steal 30 bases and hit perhaps .270, fantasy owners will want him.

Meanwhile, the Astros can use Jason Bourgeois in center field. I wrote positively about Bourgeois after the Pence trade, and how he'll likely become one of the most added players in ESPN standard leagues this week. Bourgeois will likely inherit Bourn's leadoff duties, and while there's a lot of batting average regression coming, one might notice if he's stealing a base every other day. He's not really a No. 3 hitter, since he has no power.

Then again, few Astros do. Double-A outfielder J.D. Martinez made his big league debut Saturday with an RBI double, and he's slated to start Sunday. Martinez was hitting .338 with 13 home runs, 25 doubles and a strong walk rate for the Corpus Christi Hooks, but extrapolating those numbers to the majors is problematic. Don't count on Martinez supplying similar statistics in the majors this season. The Astros really don't have other minor leaguers capable of playing regularly in the outfield, so we'll be seeing plenty of Jason Michaels.