As the Reds prepare for Spring Training in Goodyear, the equally powerful forces of optimism and pessimism tug at the heartstrings of all of us in Redleg Nation. If there was an area where the forces of pessimism may yield more power it relates to the depth of the bench, particularly amongst the Reds outfield. Currently, the Reds will take the field on Opening Day with an outfield of Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton and the newly acquired Marlon Byrd in left field. This means the Opening Day outfield will consist of a right fielder coming off a leg injury a second-year center fielder with a career OBP under .300 and a left fielder that will start the season at the age of 37 years old. Call me a pessimist or call me a realist, it is tough to envision this outfield starting 140-150 games together.

With Skip Schumaker having the inside track for the fourth outfield spot, let me introduce you to the man who will be battling for the coveted 25th roster spot: Jason Bourgeois.

Raised in East Houston, Texas, Jason grew up playing Little League baseball with major leaguers Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn. He was drafted out of high school in the second round by his home-state Texas Rangers in 2000, starting an eight-year journey to making his Major League debut in 2008 with the Chicago White Sox. In those eight years, Jason played for four franchises, including the Rangers, Braves, Mariners and White Sox. Following his debut with the Sox, he spent time with four more organizations, including the Brewers, Astros, Royals and Rays before landing with his 9th organization, the Reds in November of 2013.

Bourgeois defines journeyman, but with a solid Spring Training, the 33 year old has a chance to stick with the Reds for the 2015 season.

Bourgeois has displayed solid numbers in the minor leagues with a career batting average of .282 and an OBP of .341. However, in a little over 500 big league plate appearances, his numbers dip to a career average of .258 with an OBP of .303.

While those numbers certainly won’t go far in exciting Reds fans, there are several aspects to Jason’s game that the Reds could benefit from, namely speed and defense. Bourgeois has over 300 stolen bases in the minors with 51 career steals at the Major League level. His best year came in 2011 while playing for his hometown Astros, when he stole 31 bases while being thrown out only 6 times. On the current roster, outside of Hamilton, the Reds have very few threats on the base paths. Bourgeois could prove valuable in late-game pinch running situations.

Another area where he can bring value is in his ability to play three outfield positions, and play them well. If Bourgeois is going to make the 25-man roster, he is going to have to prove that he can get on base effectively in late inning situations, steal bases, and play strong defensively across the outfield.

When the Reds break camp to head east back to Cincinnati for the home opener on April 6th vs Pittsburgh, they are likely to have 5 players on the roster capable of playing outfield. Assuming the Reds stick to their plan of giving top-end prospect Jesse Winker more time to develop in the minors, the two leading candidates for the 25th roster spot are Jason Bourgeois and Donald Lutz.

What these two bring to the table couldn’t be farther apart; Lutz, a 6’3”, 250-pound left handed power hitter and Bourgeois a 5’9”, 190-pound right hander with 3 career homers in the bigs. Whether Bourgeois makes the team out of Spring Training could depend as much on the health of the other mainstays in the Reds outfield as his performance in Goodyear. Either way, one thing is certain, whether Bourgeois’ season starts in Cincinnati or Louisville, this journeyman is likely to have a few more stops along the way as his career continues.

22 Responses

  1. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    The lack of depth after the starting outfielders is just bad. The Reds are relying on Skip and presumably Bourgeois or Lutz to be the backups in the outfield which to me speaks volumes as to how poor the bench could be this year. Hopefully the starters can all play 150 games at least but obviously that is doubtful to happen. Maybe Winker will be crushing the ball and will force the team to call him up in July or August. I did see yesterday that Dan Szymborski has Winker as the fourth best outfielder and the team while making the comment that it spoke of how poor the depth in the outfield is considering Winker hasn’t played above AA yet.

  2. mrredlegz

    Why does Skip Schumaker have the inside track? Because he’s older? Slower? Sucks worse? Gets paid more?

    Don’t get me wrong. Jason Bourgeois is not my ideal choice for first man in, but he’s got way more to offer than Skip freaking Schumaker.

    I just want the season to start already. Lets see what we got. Scratch that. We know what we got. Lets see how effective they are. Nice pickup in Badenhop today, by the way. And the minor league deal for Gregg… Guessing that about wraps up the off season for the 2015 Reds.

  3. Steve Mancuso

    Schumaker had labrum surgery in September. He’s not going to be ready for Opening Day. I’ll be surprised if he’s doing anything meaningful by July 1.

      • ohiojimw

        Yes, and the fact they were even looking at Viciedo indicates they seem more interested in adding a RH bat with some pop off the bench than a defender. I’m guessing Negron ends up playing a lot of OF unless there is a trade or surpise signing.

    • Carl Sayre

      I would be surprised if he does anything meaningful after July 1.

  4. CTRedsFan

    I would think Bourgeois in nearly a lock to make the roster out of Spring Training since the Heisey trade has left him as the only real option to back up Hamilton in CF.

    • ohiojimw

      Heisey was primarily moved as a money dump; but there were comments (from Price) which indicated they didn’t really see him as a CF backup anymore which may have been the last straw which decided his fate with the Reds.

      • RedAlert

        I believe Heisey could and has played all 3 outfield positions very effectively , regardless of what Price said – that’s a lame excuse – but you are exactly right > indeed a salary dump – dude was a really good “flexible” outfielder so to speak

    • Tom Gray

      Both are good signings. 2 good additions to the bullpen (if Gregg is healthy).

      • Steve Mancuso

        I’m less sold on Kevin Gregg. If he starts in AAA as second or third or fourth in line for insurance against bullpen injuries, fine. But I’m worried his saves total and veteran status is too glittery for the Reds front office to resist over-promoting him. No comparison between Badenhop (good signing) and Gregg (meh, duck).

  5. Shchi Cossack

    The utility players on the roster must be viewed from a role perspective. If they were complete players, they would be starting…somewhere. The Old Cossack is on record regarding Schumaker. The best thing for the Reds bench is for Schumaker to start the season on the 60-day DL, à la Hannahan last season. That’s the only way WJ doesn’t include Schumaker on the 25-man roster breaking camp.

    The role for Jason Bourgeois on the 25-man roster would be a defensive OF (in addition to Negron) to relieve or spell all 3 OF positions, including CF, and a RH pinch hitter off the bench. Bourgeois can fill that roll effectively. Career against LHP at the major league level, Bourgeois has slashed .310/.358/.405 in 273 PA. His problem has always been against RHP, slashing .208/.248/.246 in 276 PA. That screams for a utility/PH role or even an OF platoon role.

  6. gusnwally

    What happened to Boesch.?? I think he is a frontrunner for backup OF.

  7. Steve Schoenbaechler

    If player loyalty, I believe Lutz gets it. If better player, I believe Jason gets it. I believe people need to remember something. If we had bench players who could hit, hit with power, field, throw, and run, they would probably be starters on this team or other teams. We would have to greatly overpay for players like that to take bench positions, players who aren’t going to play much. Bench players are bench players for a reason. Either they don’t have offense, don’t have defense, or both, but still have something they can contribute. That’s why the only reason why I can think Schu will be on the team is Walt believes Schu can contribute some leadership to this team. I do like how Schu called someone out to take batting practice when the team was in an offensive funk.

  8. redmountain

    The guy who is getting overlooked here is Yorman. If he has really started to figure it out like the front office says, then there is your, speed, defense, power, hitting, etc. I do not think the Reds would use him off the bench. I think that they will leave him in AAA for the time being. However, he has this last year to prove himself before he can become a FA. If he is hitting and Bruce is not, then I think you could see him in Cincy.

  9. larry holland

    This team definitely needs good outfield backup. How many 38 year old started 140 mlb games in the outfield last year.
    Skip’s shoulder was hurt last year. That doesn’t make an excuse for his lack of range at both second base and left field.
    Byrd, J. Votto, and Brandon all need regular time off.

  10. jessecuster44

    Gah! Why are we even talking about Jason Bourgeois? Boo.

    • jessecuster44

      Not a criticism of the author. Sad days are here when a player like JB might stick on the 25 man roster.

  11. Ted Kindle

    Racing back to the wall Bourgeois! The Red are National League Central Division Champions!!!!!! So we have the guy whose most famous accomplishment was watching a Jay Bruce HR?