Entering the 2018 season, James Bourque had underwhelmed as a starter in Washington Nationals organization which prompted a move to the bullpen. The move couldn’t have gone much better, and he may now be set to make an impact on the big league club next season.
Last season, in his first year as a reliever, he posted a stellar 1.70 ERA in 41 appearances between High-A and Double-A. But his stuff played up significantly in the bullpen, as he elevated his K/9 to 12.9 in 2018 in 53 innings of work.
Bourque’s fastball, that previously sat in the mid-to-low 90s, now lives in the upper 90 as a reliever. He pairs this with a power curveball as his main offspeed pitch, but he plans to incorporate his changeup back into his arsenal next season.
Despite the additions of Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, the Nats bullpen is still in flux this offseason, giving Bourque the chance to make an impression. While he’ll likely start in the minor leagues, if he can continue on from his impressive 2018, he should get a call-up this year.
Long-term, Bourque could end up being a high-leverage arm for the Nats with the potential to be a closer of the future. He’ll still need to keep the walks down, but this issue can be canceled out by his top-of-the-shelf stuff that plays up in the bullpen.