- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
While one Houston Astros outfielder was leaving the team's Friday night game in Milwaukee early, another singled, walked and stole two bases. It's true that Hunter Pence and Jason Bourgeois were in the lineup for this latest loss, but only one of them ended the game that way. Pence is on his way to the Philadelphia Phillies, in a trade for four prospects fantasy owners won't need to worry about for at least two years, while Bourgeois should finally get some playing time security.
Bourgeois is hitting .370 in 119 at-bats this season, still not quite enough to convince everyone he's more than just a journeyman speedster who has been overachieving. However, anyone in need of stolen bases has to appreciate the 20 swipes in limited time. For perspective, 19 players have stolen 20 or more bases this season; only Bourgeois and Toronto Blue Jays fourth outfielder Rajai Davis have fewer than 300 at-bats (and Davis is at 297).
Seeing that Bourgeois is owned in only 7.6 percent of ESPN standard leagues and the Astros seem intent on batting him third in their punchless lineup, it's likely he will become one of fantasy's most added players in the coming days and weeks. Just be careful here: Bourgeois is 29 years old. Last season in nearly the same amount of playing time with the Astros, he hit .220 and slugged .268. His current batting average on balls in play is .410, which is not likely to continue, and it will take his batting average with it. Bourgeois doesn't hit for power and he's not a walker, but he did steal 256 bases over parts of 12 minor league seasons. Just don't be shocked if he drops 100 points off his current batting average by September.
The pathetic Astros, currently on pace for a league-worst 108 losses, really should be playing younger options with big futures rather than a 29-year-old career journeyman, but there isn't much talent ready to help other than J.D Martinez, who was promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi. Martinez was hitting .340 with power and patience for the Hooks, but he's 23 and skipped Triple-A, and there's no guarantee the Astros will use him. For now, expect Carlos Lee and Bourgeois to flank Michael Bourn in the outfield.
As for Pence, he's clearly an upgrade on what the Phillies were using in their corner outfield spots. The ghost of Raul Ibanez is hitting .245 -- although with more home runs than Pence -- and a .291 on-base percentage. While the Phillies should sit him for rookie Domonic Brown, early indications are Brown could be headed to Triple-A Lehigh Valley this weekend. Brown could have avoided this by hitting better; in 183 at-bats, he is hitting .246 and slugging .393, and he's made numerous defensive/baserunning mistakes that haven't endeared him to the organization. Still, the Phillies didn't have to part with him in the Pence trade. In 2012, when Ibanez's contract is mercifully over, Brown and Pence will be regulars. For the rest of this season, it appears Ibanez and Pence will be. Brown is owned in 9.2 percent of leagues, while Ibanez is at 82.8 percent. Just keep Brown owned in keeper/dynasty formats, because his future remains bright. As for Ibanez, with offense down around the league, a guy on pace for 22 home runs and 85 RBIs should be owned. Of course, his days hitting fifth or sixth are likely over.
Pence is already owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, and obviously that shouldn't change. This is a good player, the No. 16 outfielder on the Player Rater after being selected in precisely that No. 16 spot in ESPN live drafts (coincidence!). It should be pointed out his current .309 batting average has been buoyed by a .370 BABIP, so there might be some regression pending, but Pence also should enjoy the many baserunners he will be provided with in Philly. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard is really not having a good season, but he leads the National League in RBIs because he gets so many chances. Philly No. 5 hitters are batting a mere .228 with a .309 OBP this season, and Pence is an upgrade. He's already on pace for 95 RBIs, and now that pace -- along with more runs scored -- should be increased.
Eric Karabell looks at the fantasy implications of the Phillies acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros.