Justin Bour is a big man who hits bombs. The 27-year-old Miami Marlins rookie is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds — and this season, 10 of his 14 home runs have gone at least 400 feet. On Saturday, he clubbed a 453 foot shot against Jordan Zimmermann at Nationals Park.
The lefty swinger has power to all fields. Seven of his Bour’s blasts have been to the pull side, while six have been from right-center to left-center and one has been to the opposite field.
Bour sees himself as more than a power hitter, although his numbers don’t necessarily reflect it. The slugging first baseman is slashing .257/.325/.449, in 326 plate appearances, and same-sided pitchers have mostly given him fits. He’s 10-for-43 versus southpaws.
As for the opportunity he’s getting in Miami, Bour is fortunate to no longer be buried in a star-studded Chicago Cubs system. The former 25th round pick was selected by the Marlins in the Triple-A portion of the 2013 Rule 5 draft.
Bour talked about his development as a hitter, including his all-fields approach, when Miami visited Boston earlier this summer.
Bour on his early adjustments as a hitter: “When I first signed, I basically got by with God-given talent. I was very raw. I had good hand-eye coordination, but when you get to the professional level, you realize that’s not going to be enough. My hitting coach back then, Dave Keller – this is when I was with the Cubs — worked with me in instructional league. He helped me get to a swing that formed who I am today.
“My hands had been up by my ears, and I was really upright. What I did was widen out a bit and bring my hands down to a position over by the chest. Those adjustments helped me shorten things up.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you find that what you’ve done your entire life isn’t going to work anymore. You have to swallow your pride and do what your coaches tell you to do. (Keller) has more experience in the game than I do, so I followed his advice.”
On his swing and hitting for power: “It’s been a process. I don’t feel there’s ever been a huge turning point with my swing. It’s been essentially the same, it’s just that every year I’m learning more and getting better as a hitter.
“I don’t see myself as strictly a power hitter. I feel like I’m more than that. I’m more of a line-drive guy with power. It’s about knowing the situation and which pitches I can handle, and which balls I can hit out of the park. The power has always been there.
“I’ve never considered myself a straight pull guy. I’ve always liked to hit the ball the other way. I have good hands and can hit the ball all over the field.”
On what he’s looking for at the plate: “’I’m looking for the fastball low and away. I feel that if I can cover that pitch, I can cover the rest of the plate. Anything outside of that is a ball, and anything inside of that is a pitch I can hit.
“When I’m going well, I can hit that fastball – the one that’s low and away – to the left center field gap. If I get all of it, I have enough power to hit it over the fence to left center. From there, my hands are quick enough that I can adjust to a pitch down and in.
“Pitching staffs have their own tendencies – the way they like to work – and some teams are looking at reports, trying to find my weaknesses. As I’ve had some success, I’ve seen some of those tendencies change, and I’ve had to adjust. Ultimately, it’s about having good at bats. If I’m smart and don’t swing at pitches out of the zone, I feel I can do some damage.”
On going from the Cubs to the Marlins: “I’m getting an opportunity to play in the big leagues here. I didn’t with the Cubs. That’s the only real difference. I played every day in the Cubs system, usually batted fourth, and for the most part I put up the solid numbers. I just had less opportunity over there.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.