Washington Nationals: James Bourque a relief prospect making waves
By Blake Finney
While the Washington Nationals haven’t necessarily been known for being able to churn out relief prospects, James Bourque is making some waves in the minors.
The Washington Nationals bullpen has been subject of huge debate over recent weeks. Although he may not be ready to make the jump to the big leagues now, right-hander James Bourque is raising his prospect status rapidly.
A former starter that the Nats drafted in the 14th round way back in 2014, things weren’t working out for Borque in the rotation. He posted an ERA of 4.00 in his first year, and then an ERA north of 5.00 in 2016 and 2017.
So without much success as a starter, before the 2018 season, the Nats transitioned him to a reliever, with great results. Between High-A and Double-A, Bourque has recorded a 1.91 ERA, with 66 strikeouts in just 47 innings this season.
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His fastball, that used to sit in the low-to-mid 90s now lives in the upper 90s consistently and has some late life to it. He also has a power curveball as an excellent second pitch should he need it. There’s also a changeup he’s used previously, but that’s drastically reduced this year.
With the slight increase in velocity, his strikeouts have soared in 2018. He never topped 7.3 K/9 in any given season before 2018, but now that’s way up to 12.6 K/9.
Command has always been Borque’s issue with a career 3.2 BB/9 rate. But when you’re pitching out of the bullpen, and have the stuff that he does you can get away with it, as evidenced by the spike in strikeouts.
One interesting note to point out with Bourque is that he will likely be added to the 40 man roster this off-season. If he’s not, then he would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and any team could poach him.
So with that in mind, it seems highly likely that we see Borque up with the major league team in 2019. If the righty keeps pitching the way he has so far, then he may be a great addition to the young and exciting Nats bullpen that’s brewing in 2019.
James Bourque is establishing himself as a name to watch within the Washington Nationals system. Now we’ll see if he can continue his success the rest of the way in 2018, and beyond.