Texas’ Julio Borbon is the leading candidate to nab the starting center field and leadoff spots in the Rangers’ lineup. Borbon lived up to his speedy reputation after stealing 19 bases in 23 attempts in just a 46 game stint with Texas last season. Borbon, a native of the Dominican Republic and University of Tennessee product, was taken in the supplemental first round in 2007. He has burned through the minor leagues excelling at each level and is now ready to step in full-time for the Rangers.
Borbon is similar to a Jacoby Ellsbury type player. He does not walk much, just six percent in the minors, but he also does not strike out much (10.7 percent in minors). He makes good, solid contact and keeps the ball out of the air for the most part. This allows him to use his tremendous speed and he consistently posts high BABIP numbers (.342 in minor league career). Because he hits nearly 50 percent of his balls on the ground he is not much of a power threat. His career minor league ISO stands at just .091, which nearly matches the .102 he put up during his major league call-up last season.
Texas is hoping Borbon can handle playing center field as they hope to keep Josh Hamilton in left. If he minor league numbers are any indication, Borbon should be at least above average defensively. According to minorleaguesplits.com, which has his Total Zone ratings, Borbon was +14 in 2008 at Double-A and +12 in 2009 at Triple-A. He clearly has the speed and range to cover ground. We will see how his arm and reactions translate to the major league level.
If Borbon is given ample playing time there is no doubt he should provide at least 40-50 stolen bases. Whether or not he can handle hitting at the top of the order will depend entirely on his ability to consistently reach base. He could stand to walk more but he has been highly successful with his approach in the past. There are other speedy outfielders such as Ellsbury and Carl Crawford who have succeeded with low walk and high contact rates. While I doubt he will ever develop the power that Crawford has he does have some gap power and speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Borbon could become a .300/.340/.390 type of player at the top of the order in Texas. Along with Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, Texas is accumulating a talented young core to build upon.