Nobody is quite sure what to expect from slugging outfielder Brennan Boesch in 2011. Everybody knows his story. He was promoted to from Toledo to Detroit in late April and went on to have an all-star caliber first half batting .342/.397/.593. His second half, however, was described by Baseball Prospectus as the worst half season for a regular in the 21st Century. His final line was an abysmal .163/.237/.222. Corey Ettinger of AL Central in Focus took a look at his statistical tendencies and tried to project his future. He is hopeful but not all that optimistic. Now, I'll give my thoughts.
Since being selected in the third round of the 2006 draft, the left-handed hitting Boesch was regarded as a free-swinger with the potential to hit a lot of home runs. He was somewhat of a disappointment hitting just 22 home runs combined from 2006-2008. The 6-6 210 pound beast finally broke out in 2009 hitting .275 with 28 homers in his first year at Double-A Erie.
Even after his 2009 season, scouts were divided on his future in the majors. Some felt he had enough power potential to make a contribution at least on a platoon basis. Others feared that he would never make enough contact to stick as a major league regular. The statistical projections were bleak including a .228/.278/.358 PECOTA projection. He beat his projection by a substantial margin last year, but his crash and burn finish didn't inspire any confidence among either his skeptics or supporters.
So, what can we expect from him in 2011? He'll be 26 in April, so we can't expect him to make any dramatic improvements. He's always going to be a guy who can hit for power but struggles to make contact or draw walks. His 2010 35/121 BB/K ratio probably won't get much better. He's got surprising speed for a big guy but is an awkward defender. The question is can he make small gains in his his plate discipline, contact and defensive skills? If he can improve just a little in those areas, he can have a career as a platoon corner outfielder.
The statistical projections are still not optimistic. ZIPS pegs him at .247/.295/.390 and PECOTA has him batting .250/.302/.424. I think he can hit for more power than that, maybe slugging between .450-.470. If he gets a lot of at bats mostly versus right-handers, I would guess he'd bat around .250/.300/.460.
I don't think he'll get a chance right away though. The outfield is set with Ryan Raburn, Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez and Victor Martinez will be the primary DH. Boesch may make the team as a backup outfielder, but his best chance might come if he goes to Toledo, gets hot and comes up due to an injury.
I don't see him ever being a star or even a consistent regular because I doubt his plate discipline will allow it. He could become a left-handed version of Marcus Thames, which would not be a bad thing.