On August 1 of last season, the Los Angeles Angels promoted Peter Bourjos to the majors. Mike Scioscia promptly inserted Bourjos into the starting lineup in center field, shifting nine-time Gold Glove recipient Torii Hunter from the only position he has known for the past decade.
It didn't take long, however, for Bourjos to justify the decision. In his second game, he threw out Luke Scott trying to go from first to third on a single. By the end of the week, he was making his way onto highlight reels, and within a month he was a regular on Web Gems lists.
During his two months in the majors, Bourjos saved an estimated 15 runs with his defense, according to Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) and the Runs Saved system. This total ranked third among all center fielders last season, despite the fact that Bourjos didn't even play a third of a season.
He also made 24 Good Fielding Plays (GFP) as tracked by BIS Video Scouts, meaning he made two dozen Web Gem-type plays that you wouldn't expect an average fielder to make. That number easily led all outfielders from August 1 on. Included in those 24 GFP are two home run robberies, in which he snatched a home run from over the outfield fence and turned it into a fly out.
Bourjos did it all last year. He rated well on deep-hit balls, and he also made diving plays on shallow line drives in front of him. He accumulated 10 outfield assists in those two months; the full-season league leader, Adam Jones with 12, had a four-month head start.
This defensive prowess is why Bourjos can be a real difference-maker for the Angels this season, as he has the potential to be the best defensive player the league has seen in several years. But whether he can hit well enough will ultimately determine whether the team can keep him and his runs-saving defensive ability on the field.