According to a report from John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cincinnati Reds will be without Jason Bourgeois for the foreseeable future, as he will miss four to six weeks with a left shoulder fracture.
Bourgeois had been playing well this spring, batting .350 (7-for-20) with a home run and five runs scored, and had a legitimate shot at cracking the 25-man Opening Day roster as a fifth outfielder. While Bourgeois is not a critical player for the Reds, he would have served as a backup to Billy Hamilton in center field if he made the team and his speed would make him a threat on the basepaths, especially playing for a manager who likes to be aggressive in the running game.
One big concern with the injury is that it leaves the Reds without an experienced center fielder to back up Hamilton. The player on the roster with the most experience in center is Skip Schumaker. Schumaker has played 1,020 innings there in the past, but he hasn’t played the position particularly well, as he has a UZR of -10.3 and a -7 DRS in his center field career.
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The only other player who has manned center field for a significant amount of time during spring training has been Brennan Boesch, who is now a near-lock to make the club after Bourgeois’ injury. Boesch, however, has played one career inning in center in the majors. He hasn’t been a particularly great fielder in the other two outfield positions either, with a -26.0 UZR and -9 DRS for his career. With subpar defensive numbers in the corner outfield spots, making a move to center field — which is a tougher position to play — may not bode well.
With Bourgeois’ injury, the defensive drop-off will be quite noticeable whenever Hamilton isn’t in the game. The offense, however, will be better off with Boesch. Neither had significant big league time last season, but for their careers, Boesch is either equal to or better than Bourgeois in every meaningful offensive statistic except for stolen bases.
Boesch’s most notable advantage is in his power numbers, as he has 47 career home runs and a slugging percentage of .412 versus three longballs and a .324 SLG% for Bourgeois. Given that the Reds current projected bench of Kristopher Negron, Brayan Pena, and Schumaker had a combined 13 home runs last year, they’ll most likely be glad to trade a stolen base threat for a power threat.
This spring, Boesch has built on the success he had in Triple-A Salt Lake last year, as he’s batting .478 (11-for-23) with two HRs and five RBIs.