As pitchers and catchers were filing in to Glendale, Ariz., for the start of spring training workouts an update was given about 2017 first rounder Jake Burger.
Hahn reemphasized that a June 1 return date for Jake Burger to an affiliate is tentative, could move up or back by a few weeks
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) February 13, 2019
The White Sox used the 11th overall pick of the 2017 draft to select Burger out of Missouri State who the scouting department believed to be the best player available at that slot. After the selection was made, Director of Amateur Scouting Nick Hostetler touted the slugger’s extensive wood bat success and referred to the player as having the “best right-handed power in the country.” Some questions lingered throughout the draft process about Burger’s defensive home, but Hostetler effusively praised Jake for his “55-60 grade arm” and good feet. As an organization, the White Sox were believers in the right-hander’s ability to stick at the hot corner.
Burger has strong work ethic and “80-grade makeup” and his ability to consistently square up baseballs helped land him a bonus of $3.7 million. The former Missouri State standout blasted 47 homers in college and hit 5 more in the White Sox system in 2017. Like most college draftees, Burger appeared to wear down toward the end of his first year in the system. In 200 plate appearances, Jake posted a 116 wRC+ with Low-A Kannapolis after a brief tune-up in rookie ball.
Last spring, Burger received quite a bit of time with the big league club and impressed everyone involved early on. He was building some momentum before inevitably joining a star-studded lineup with the Winston-Salem Dash.
Running out an infield grounder last February, Burger ruptured his Achilles tendon in a spring training game. It was a gut punch for Jake and the organization after a strong start to the spring. While resting after the initial surgery, Burger re-tore the Achilles tendon in May of 2017.
General Manager Rick Hahn spoke of the somber news at the time: “It’s a lousy setback for a great kid who has been working hard, but as was the case with the first repair the expectation is there’s to be no long-term effect on his baseball career. It’s just a matter of having lost the last 10 weeks of his rehabilitation and having to start over.”
Burger has been doing some cage work during the rehab process.
Jake Burger taking some flips with Eloy Jiménez and Micker Adolfo watching pic.twitter.com/U9Xi3Op5qY
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) February 13, 2019
Burger also has been spending time hitting off a tee
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) February 12, 2019
The soon to be 23-year-old is getting closer to the end of this setback and normalcy is back on the horizon. Hahn spoke glowingly of his former first-rounder when probed by the assembled media at the start of camp yesterday.
He could fall out of bed and hit. That was always the case with Jake Burger. He’s got a compact powerful stroke that we didn’t think he was going to lose because of the Achilles. For him it’s just more about ramping up the strength in the legs and the conditioning elements of things and being able to run and be comfortable. Eventually it’s going to take some time, but to get some of that lateral movement and explosiveness back. That’s some of the future hurdles that are out there for him. Right now he looks pretty good. We don’t quite have a return date in mind just yet other than the tentative one of about June 1st with an affiliate. That could be moved up a couple weeks, maybe moved back a couple weeks depending on how things go here while we’re in camp. We look forward to having him back.
We ranked Burger as the #14 prospect in the system on our most recent top-30 list and there’s definitely room to ascend as this year moves along. Health is the key for the former Bear but if everything checks out, he should be playing baseball with the Dash in the Carolina League at some point this summer. The Arizona Fall League could be an option as well to make up for lost time on his decelerated path to the big leagues.
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