Although it took nearly a month and a half’s worth of extra games during which time the undoubtedly frustrated 28-year-old slugger was forced to watch as the likes of Don Kelly, Robert Andino, Yefri Perez and others inexplicably received call ups to fill his rightful roster spot, Xavier Scruggs, who not only held down the .284/.388/.507 line he had at time time of Justin Bour’s ankle going bum on July 6th, but improved upon it to the tune of .290/.408/.565, finally became a Miami Marlin on August 18th. He came to the Fish as the second best OPSing bat (.973) in the Pacific Coast League with its sixth most homers (21) and a 1.55 K/BB.
Other than switching his navy and white garb for orange and black, nothing has changed in Scruggs’ first 12 games, his first in the majors in over a year. Headed in to play on September 1st, Scruggs is hitting at a pace very reminiscent of that which he enjoyed with the Zephyrs. He is 10 for his last 34 with three XBHs which includes his firs MLB homer and a 4/8 K/BB which equates to a .294/.368/.441 slash line. Combined, Scruggs has hit safely in 12 of his last 17 games and is 18 for his last 52 (.346) between the top two levels of competition professional baseball has to offer.
As I wrote earlier this month, the timing of Scruggs’ call and the circumstances surrounding it are eerily similar of a Marlins’ GM-ism from 2014. Then, then Marlins’ head honcho in charge of player decisions Dan Jennings left Bour down in the minors despite his hitting .320/.397/.559 in the first half in AAA despite the fact that, in the bigs, Miami’s first baseman, Garrett Jones hit just .253/.321/.423. At most, Jones contributed a very sparce power threat while striking out over twice as much as he walked (2.3 K/BB) and playing terrible defense. Even though Jones’ power production fell off even further in the second half as he hit just .234/.288/.391 in 57 games, it wasn’t until the rosters expanded in September that Bour finally got called up. After Bour presumably burst onto the scene by hitting .284/.361/.365 in his first 39 MLB games, he took over the starting job in 2015.
A year later, Bour is in danger of losing his starting job in a very similar fashion. Not only could he lose that spot, it is my opinion that he should lose that spot this offseason.
Coming in to this year, Bour was a 219/.287/.288 bat in his major league career against lefties. This included a 2015 season in which teams started playing the pull shift against him. Against it, he had 15 hits in 68 ABs. This season, the Marlins have cut their losses and made Bour a platoon partner to Chris Johnson and Derek Dietrich. This season, he has gotten just a sparse 22 ABs vs southpaws. In that handful of chances, he has just five hits, no walks and eight Ks. Struggling vs lefties is nothing new for Bour. Looking at his minor league numbers, it would appear as though the jury on Bour vs lefties was out before his major league career even started. As an MiLBER, his slash line was a very meager .237/.301/.359 and his yearly career high OPS was .753 in single A.
Comparatively, Xavier Scruggs is a much more complete hitter. In 921 career ABs vs lefties, Scruggs has homered 68 times or once in every 13 ABs. His best power producing seasons against LHP came as recent as 2014 when he hit 11, tying a career high from 2011 in A+ when his OPS was over 1.000. He had hit six homers in 83 ABs vs lefties for the Zephyrs this year prior to his call-up. In addition to the 55 career long balls, Scruggs added 64 doubles and a triple. In his eight year minor league career, his slash line vs lefties sits at a robust .271/.368/.520. Add the hot start to his Marlins’ career and the fact that he’s much better against lefties to the fact that Scruggs against the other side in the minors (.252/.351/.455) rivaled Bour (.294/.359/.493) who played in 313 less games and got 925 less at bats, and Scruggs is making a serious case for taking over the primary job at first base in 2017.
And that’s just based on statistics alone. Now add in the injury factor. Bour, who stands at 6’3″ and carries nearly 270 pounds worth of weight, is just returning from missing two months’ worth of action due to a high ankle sprain. According to a trio of professionals, from two prestigious universities, the risk for the common patient athlete, let alone one who sports nearly 300 pounds of mass, is most common in the year following the initial sprain. For those doing the math, that would make Bour a prime candidate for another trip to the DL in 2017.
Despite his ineptness against lefties and his injury this year, if the Marlins do decide to replace Bour with Scruggs this year, Bour carries increased value because of his contract situation. The 28-year-old signed a $500K contract with the Marlins this year and is under team control next year before entering the first of three arbitration years. For a team in need of a righty killing 1B such as the Nationals who are counting on an aging Ryan Zimmerman to carry their left-handed production flag, the Red Sox, who face the prospect of a retiring All-Star DH in David Ortiz (Bour is a career -2.0 defensive WAR player and, especially considering the ankle, could make the switch to becoming an exclusive offensive threat advantageously), or the Cleveland Indians who could use a platoon partner for Mike Napoli, as well as other clubs, Bour could prove to be an attractive asset as the Marlins seek to bring in quality rotation talent.