By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Justin Bour, First base, Miami Marlins
2015 season (Majors): 129 G, 409 AB, .262 BA, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 0 SB, .800 OPS
The 2015 season will be remembered for introducing an incredible class of rookies to the Major Leagues. From Kris Bryant to Carlos Correa, dozens of stars of tomorrow were introduced to the baseball world. While guys like Bryant and Correa were expected, there were a few surprises among this incredible crop of rookies — among them was Marlins first baseman Justin Bour.
Bour, a 25th round Draft pick of the Cubs in 2009, took some time to develop and never got past Double A with Chicago before finally making it to Triple A in ‘14 with Miami. He mashed for Triple A New Orleans to the tune of 18 homers and a slash line of .306/.372/.517, but he didn’t get much playing time in his first callup to the Marlins in June. He did get another crack as a September callup, and with a number of starts was able to get some traction in the bigs, going 15-for-47 (.319). While he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training last year, he was called up in April and obviously stuck.
The first baseman flashed legitimate power in his rookie year. According to Statcast data, he managed an average launch speed of 93.1 mph, and according to ESPN Home Run Tracker, he had an average true distance of 407.3 feet on home runs, 20th in the Majors sandwiched between Blue Jays sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances, his 21.5 HR/FB rate ranked 14th in the bigs.
The major issue for Bour is his ability to hit left handers. Bour absolutely crushed right-handers, hitting all 23 of his homers and 16 of his 20 doubles against them. Against lefties, he went just 15-for-68 with 22 strikeouts. This was also an issue in the Minors, as he had 15 homers and a .330/.400/.563 line vs righties and just three homers and a .252/.304/.409 line vs. lefties.
When he starts, he hits in the middle of a lineup behind guys like Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton and sees plenty of RBI opportunities. But while he will get some starts against lefties, the Marlins signed Chris Johnson, who has a .314 career average vs. southpaws, and he will probably see most of those starts.
If Bour could improve against lefties in 2016, then the sky is the limit, but that’s not a given. Even if that hurdle proves too difficult to leap in his eighth season of professional baseball, Bour has been so effective against right-handers that he could still reach 25 homers and 80 RBIs even if he gets stuck in a platoon situation with Johnson.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.