For those of you, like me, already penciling in Peter Bourjos as the Cardinals starting center fielder for 2014, Jon Jay is saying "not so fast".
According to Jennifer Langosch, Jay is expecting to compete with Bourjos for the starting center field job this Spring. The article also indicates that the Cardinals have not promised Bourjos all the playing time, although you would think the Cards wouldn't have traded David Freese for a bench player.
So, it appears that we have ourselves a Spring training battle shaping up between Jay and Bourjos. Let's see how these two stack up:
Overall, I would have to give the edge on offense to Jay. He has a better career batting average than Bourjos (.293 to .251), gets on base better (.356 OBP to .306 OBP for Bourjos) and has an edge in OPS+ (109 to 98).
However, in his defense, Bourjos has been banged up most of his career. In his one full season in 2011, he put up a line of .271/.327/.438. His OPS+ of 116 for that season is better than any single season put up by Jay, who's best was 113 in 2012.
In addition, Bourjos has better overall speed that Jay. For his career, Bourjos has stolen 41 bases compared to 37 for Jay, in 184 fewer games. Also, Bourjos has a little more pop that Jay, with an isolated power of .146 for his career, compared to .108 for Jay. Bourjos has 24 homers compared to 25 for Jay, again in much fewer games (and at bats).
So, even though I give the edge to Jay, mainly because of his ability to hit for average and get on base, the margin of victory is not very big.
Here is where Bourjos really sets himself apart. All fielding metrics you look at show Bourjos as being far better defensively than Jay.
Bourjos has a .990 fielding percent compared to .988 for Jay (center field only).
Bourjos has a 2.74 Range Factor per 9 inning (RF/9) compared to 2.56 for Jay.
Bourjos has a defensive WAR (dWAR) of 4.2 for his career compared to -0.5 for Jay.
Bourjos has an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 40.1 for his career compared to -7.3 for Jay.
Overall, Bourjos just blows Jay away as far as defense goes, which is primarily the reason that the Cardinals acquired him. With him in center and Kolten Wong at second, the Cards defense will get a major boost in 2014.
Even though it appears that there will be a competition for the center field job, the job is really Bourjos' to lose. Assuming he's healthy (and stays healthy), Bourjos should be the Cardinals starting center fielder on opening day and for the majority of the season.