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Monday, February 15, 2010
Surprise positional outlook: Center field

By Richard Durrett

Our position tour continues to weave its way around the outfield. Today, we hit center field and take a look at Julio Borbon. BTW, here are the first base (Chris Davis and Justin Smoak), second base (Ian Kinsler), third base (Michael Young), shortstop (Elvis Andrus) and left field (Josh Hamilton)outlooks.

The departure of Marlon Byrd means Borbon is the primary center fielder for the Rangers. Hamilton will also see some time there, but the Rangers have made it clear that it's Borbon's job. Borbon, who turns 24 on Saturday, was selected 35th overall (supplemental first round) in the 2007 draft. The Rangers believed in him enough that he was put on the 40-man roster as part of his signing out of the University of Tennessee.

Borbon has worked in winter ball and during the rest of the offseason to become a better defensive outfielder and get used to covering all the ground necessary to be a good center fielder.

He certainly has the speed to do it. He had 19 stolen bases in 46 games for the Rangers, including four stolen bases on Aug. 15 against Boston (the team had eight total). He had 25 stolen bases in 96 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season as well.

Julio Borbon
The hardworking Julio Borbon has big-time speed.
Borbon, a left-handed hitter, came up in late June and played in 46 games through two stints with the club. It was an impressive debut. Borbon hit .312 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 157 at-bats. Most of them were in the leadoff spot. Borbon showed an ability to get on base, including five bunt singles (10th-most in the AL) and nine infield hits. His on-base percentage was .376, but it went up to .385 when he was leadoff hitter. That was sixth among leadoff hitters in the AL with at least 125 at-bats. Not bad for a rookie. Since Borbon had 157 at-bats in 2009, he isn't considered a rookie in 2010, by the way. 

Borbon had only 13 at-bats as a center fielder in 2009. But as we try to give you a glimpse of 2010, some interesting numbers from ESPN Stats & Information:

* Only two active center fielders stole at least 19 bases and had an on-base percentage of at least .375 (Borbon's numbers in 2009) in their second season. That was Denard Span in 2009 (23 stolen bases, .392 OBP) and Juan Pierre (46 stolen bases, .378 OBP) in 2001.

So it won't be easy on Borbon to put up similar numbers. But he clearly can do it, considering he put up the stolen base numbers in just 46 games. Obviously, leading off for a full season in the majors is different than doing it for a few months. Manager Ron Washington could decide to stick a right-handed hitter up there (like Ian Kinsler) at times if he chooses. But he's given indications that Borbon will leadoff against left- and right-handers.

The big question will be the defense. Byrd did a solid job out there and so did Hamilton. Borbon doesn't have the arm of either of those players. But he does have more speed. I'll be curious to see how he does once spring training begins. 

Are you looking forward to see how Borbon looks in center field?