When the Chicago White Sox drafted Jake Burger back in 2017, they selected an established NCAA power hitter with an extremely high ceiling. The immediate return for the Sox was a player riddled with injuries and struggled to stay on the field. Now, he is back and feeling better than before. He has shown a few glimpses of that potential so far this spring. If the comparisons are correct, Burger can be extremely impactful during a World Series run on the South Side.
At Missouri State, Burger hit the second-most home runs in NCAA Division I a year prior and was considered the best power hitter available in the ’17 draft class. He also became the first Missouri State Bears position player selected in the first round.
Selected 11th overall, Burger was described as a player with easy power but can also hit for average. There was a large focus on his “stocky build” and “average speed a despite thick frame,” by MLB.com. He drew comparisons to Hunter Pence and former White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier. However, his skill did not lay only on the offensive side.
When drafted, his power was rated 55 and contact at 50. He was described as a slugger who “makes consistent contact and doesn’t get himself out, so he should hit for average” by MLB.com. His arm was rated at 55 and both his fielding and speed were at 50. If his potential defensive ability is just as good as his potential offensive ability, the Sox have a player that impacts the games he plays in.
After the 2017 campaign, Burger was ranked 10th on the White Sox Top prospects list and 8th in the MLB’s Top 10 third base prospects list by MLB.com. 2018 was a red light on the highway that was Burger’s road to the show. During Spring Training 2018, Burger suffered an Achille tear during a game.
On top of that, a bruised heel on the same foot kept him out of ‘19 as well. Just a string of terrible misfortune. Through perseverance and hard work, Burger has started back on that highway that stopped him in ‘18.
He came into 2021 camp 40 pounds lighter, despite the new chip on his shoulder. After an emotional first game after three years, Burger was happy and described his experience as incredible and described how emotional he was. He was listed as the third base starter Sunday, though many speculate he will be fighting for the DH spot along with Andrew Vaughn. Batting sixth, Burger went 0 for 3 but had some good-looking swings.
Realistically, Burger will not make the majors until 2022 or beyond. With a strong Spring Training, he could make a strong case for the DH job this season. Tony La Russa has even mentioned Burger as a potential candidate for the job. Vaughn is the favorite, but if the favorite is a rookie who hasn’t played in a pro game in a year with no experience past high A, anyone who can hit well should be considered.
Going forward, it is kind of hard to see Burger anywhere other than DH or potentially first base. One Achilles tear is already extremely difficult to recover from, but two? In a perfect world, his two healthy heels and strong arm could be perfect in right-field but unfortunately, that is not the case.
Despite this, he has been working on his fielding and was the third base starter on spring’s Opening Day. With that, maybe there is a chance he could recover. Realistically, however, it does not make sense to keep him at the hot corner. Not to mention baseball’s best dancer, Yoán Moncada, is already holding it down. The chance of another injury is high and not a smart risk to take.
That being said, Burger has the potential to be a strong offensive presence in the White Sox lineup. If Burger can be to the team what Hunter Pence was for the Giants, he is gonna be a thorn in a lot of pitcher’s sides.