Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 20, 2006
Joe Borchard was Chicago’s first round pick (12th overall) in 2000 out of the University of Stanford, turning down a chance at an NFL career as a quarterback to chase his dream of playing big league baseball.
Borchard was impressive in his first full season in the minors, showing plus power potential and earning a trip the 2001 and 2002 MLB Futures Games.
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Borchard was originally drafted and signed with the thought that he might turn into a capable center fielder who could produce at high levels with the bat.
Since 2002, however, his development has gone stale. Despite his 57 extra-base hits and .498 slugging percentage in the pitcher-friendly International League at age 23, Borchard wasn’t progressing in any of his problem areas.
His 139-49 K/BB ratio in ’02 was the red flag that halted his previously continuous praise throughout the organization. At Stanford, he drew his share of walks to counter the majority of his strikeout numbers. For a power hitter, Borchard was walking away from the plate empty handed far too many times. Basically, he was just making too many outs, and in particular, the easy kind.
He regressed in ’03, displaying even worse strike zone judgment and awful pitch recognition, piling up 103 strikeouts versus just 27 bases on balls. Worse yet, he’d outgrown center field and posted a middle-infield like .705 OPS with Triple-A Charlotte.
Borchard was injured during the ’03 season, and a portion of his regression can be attributed to the broken foot he suffered early in the calendar year.
At 25, Borchard rebounded to put up quality, but still underwhelming numbers in Charlotte again — . 266/.333/.495. But again he was rung up in more than 20 percent of his plate appearances, though he did show better patience in drawing walks in almost 10 percent of his trips to the plate.
His big season in 2002 earned him a cup of coffee in the bigs where he hit .222/.234/.389 in 36 at-bats. He again got a mug of java in ’03 to the tune of 49 sporadic at-bats where he hit .184/.246/.265.
It wasn’t until 2004, at the age of 25 that Borchard got an extended look in the majors. In 63 games he received 223 plate appearances and smacked nine home runs.
He again showed his inability to recognize strikes and pitch types, whiffing 57 times – more than 25 percent of his PAs.
At this point in his career, Borchard has proven three things.
1) He can’t consistently hit the breaking ball, or show the ability to lay off them when they are out of the zone.
2) He’s a guess hitter, which is no secret but his lack of improvement and development might suggest he’s not the brightest of hitters, either.
3) His future is as a corner outfielder – off the bench.
What the M’s got today was a switch-hitting Russell Branyan who can hold down an outfield spot without embarassing himself ridiculously.
Borchard could also be a candidate to spell Jeremy Reed in center field if he makes the 25-man roster.
The favorites to occupy the bench just took a jolt for me. Roberto Petagine just got his ticket to Tacoma punched. Why? He’s not on the 40-man roster.
Prior to today’s trade, Petagine had a shot to come north. It wouldn’t have been too difficult for the Mariners to send Luis E. Gonzalez back to Los Angeles to open up a spot for Petagine on the 40-man roster. But now with Thornton not an option for the bullpen, the M’s aren’t likely to make such a move with Borchard on board.
Unlike Petagine, Borchard can play the outfield – and first, if necessary – and bats from both sides of the plate. While Petagine is the better bet to produce offensively, Borchard, seven years Petagine’s junior, has a decent shot to come somewhat close to the same level of production while avoiding the roster issue and giving the club another youthful player to try and develope.
Petagine and Todd Sears are both headed for Tacoma to DH and play first base, while Borchard is almost a given to make the big club. Like Thornton, he’s out of options.
This also may spell doom for Greg Dobbs. He can’t play the outfield, is average at best at third, has no power to speak of and is going to be 28 years old this summer. In Tacoma, Hunter Brown possesses more pop, is more versatile and more than a full year younger than Dobbs.
|PLAYER||POS.||HT||WT||AGE||2005 STATS @ AAA|
|60 – Joe Borchard||OF||6-5||220||27||.263/.365/.480, 29 HR, 67 RBI, 50 BB, 143 SO|
Hitting for Average: 40
Has trouble making consistent contact and his high-K, mediocre-walk totals allow for only a moderate boost to his OBP. He’s never shown the ability to make adjustments from PA to PA and can be fooled often by an above average breaking ball – something he just hasn’t been able to conquer to any extent in five years in the minors. He’ll probably be a .250 hitter with OBP marks in the .310-.320 range.
Hitting for Power: 60-65
Borchard’s raw power suggests he might be capable of hitting 30 home runs a season if given the opportunity and the ABs. His peripherals say otherwise, however. He often gets pull happy from the right side and while he has more power as a lefty bat, he tends to lunge at breaking balls and changeups in anxiety and rolls over the weak grounder or lazily pops out. He’s a long ways from being a lineup regular but he can hit a baseball along ways and his stroke is solid, especially from the lefthanded batter’s box. He can be more than useful on the M’s bench.
While most scouts don’t like him in center much at all, he isn’t any worse than Matt Lawton would be and is probably a better bet to hold his own in short stints. Borchard could play either corner spot well enough to be the club’s late-inning defensive replacement once Raul Ibanez is lofted for a pinch runner. Borchard is fairly sure-handed and his instincts are about average. His athleticism is intriguing and it’s hard not to like the prospects of him running around in the outfield instead of Ibanez.
Borchard has plus arm strength and his accuracy seems to be the only aspect of his game in which scouts have seen significant improvement over the past two seasons.
Borchard runs pretty well for being 6-foot-5, but most of that slightly above-average speed is used for defense and doubles. He rarely swipes a bag.
Borchard’s athleticsm and left-handed power make this deal a solid trade for Seattle. I’m not sure what Chicago is thinking. Since the middle of 2004, they have traded Carlos Lee, Aaron Rowand, Chris Young, Jeremy Reed and now Joe Borchard from their seemingly endless crops of young outfielders. Brian Anderson is the real deal in center, but they better pray that Ryan Sweeney develops properly in order to take over for Scott Podsednik or Jermaine Dye in a year or so, or they’ll have at least one major hole in their outfield.
Thornton does very little for them and is clearly not the answer to replace Damaso Marte who was dealt to Pittsburgh during the winter. Neal Cotts is the main southpaw in their pen, but maybe they weren’t paying attention when Righty Cliff Politte allowed a stingy .205 BAA versus lefties in 2005. Conversely, AL hitters batted .273 off Thornton in his Mariners career.