White Sox Minor Keys: Jake Burger’s big night

Jake Burger (Sox Machine)

The last time I saw Jake Burger, it was four seasons ago at an affiliate three levels down for a team that was renamed in a ballpark that it no longer uses. For years, I used the same photo of him at third base for the Intimidators because it kept representing his most recent experience in recorded professional games.

Burger’s playing in Nashville this week with the Charlotte Knights, and there’s plenty else to update. He came into the game hitting .277/.322/.546 in one of the few lines that isn’t a creation of Charlotte’s cozy bandbox, he’s in better shape, and now he’s playing second base in an attempt to generate a few different options to make it to Chicago.

Despite losing 40 pounds, Burger still cuts a large and unusual profile in the middle infield. In his last start at second base, he twice got lost on pop-ups to shallow right field that fell behind him, so it’s the kind of frame that can make plays look clumsy when things go awry.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get any routine chances to showcase the position’s standard mechanics. There was one chopper through the spot a second baseman would normally stand, but Burger was shifted and couldn’t get there.

He did come up with one assist on a play that tested his range. It wasn’t an elegant effort, it would’ve been an infield single with anybody but a catcher running, and I’m not positive it would’ve withstood replay if it existed at Triple-A. Nevertheless, Burger managed to smother it, recover it, and make a quick, on-target throw to second for the final out of the fourth.

He was involved in two other outs that showed some refinement. He received a throw from Alex McRae for a successful pickoff in the first inning …

… and he also ended a 1-6-5-4 putout on a rundown between second and third a couple innings later.

Based on his work thus far — including that false first step on the 4-3 he recorded above — I’m guessing plenty of work remains to make him a playable option at second beyond an emergency basis. You definitely wouldn’t want him there with a sinkerballer, as Dallas Keuchel’s eyes would roll out of their sockets and follow those grounders into shallow right field.

As for the bat, Burger went 4-for-5 and scored every time he reached base. He got some help early — a muscled blooper in the second inning dropped in front of the center fielder, who took an unconvincing angle due to harsh sunlight contrasts. Two innings later, Burger reached on an infield single. Nashville’s third baseman hit the ground after reaching for the bouncer, and his throw after recovering was high and wide.

Burger’s latter two hits were legit. He smoked a rolling slider into the left-center gap for an RBI double in the fifth:

And after bouncing out to second in the sixth, he opened the ninth with an opposite-field homer on an 0-2 slider.

Burger is now hitting .295/.338/.582 after that display. Even better, his line on the road (.313/.347/.612) exceeds his home splits (.278/.329/.557), which is the first thing to check for any Charlotte hitter with surprising stats. While tweeting Burger’s exploits, I received some salty responses from White Sox fans who were unimpressed by Luis González’s recent promotion after Adam Engel’s injury.

Obviously that move was made with different defensive responsibilities in mind, but I understand why the Sox might be reluctant to pierce the Burger bubble even if an immediate need arose closer to his position. He’s already dealing with plenty, what with playing through a full-season grind and learning second base on the fly. Forcing him onto the 26-man roster and demanding he hit immediately feels like a lot to ask. He’s producing, but with an aggressive approach that MLB pitchers often neutralize into soft contact until the hitter becomes able to separate what’s driveable from everything that’s merely reachable. It’d be nice to have some defensive value that offsets struggles at the plate, lest the Sox end up in another Yermín Mercedes situation.

However, if Yoán Moncada were to hit the injured list, Burger would be a good use of an audition at third, because even a little bit of failure would be informative. If the Sox can wait a few weeks, they might be able to pass him off at second for an occasional game without courting disaster. It’s a little frustrating that there isn’t a better fit immediately, until you realize that being frustrated with Burger raking in Charlotte is pretty much the best-case scenario with regards to his development as a prospect.

Charlotte 13, Nashville 6

  • Blake Rutherford went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • Gavin Sheets went 2-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Jake Burger, 4-for-5 with a homer, double and four runs scored.
  • Tyler Johnson: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • Jace Fry struck out the only batter he faced to end an inning.

Birmingham 7, Pensacola 6

  • Romy Gonzalez went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
  • Micker Adolfo went 1-for-4 with a walk, with the hit being a walk-off homer.
  • Carlos Pérez went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • Blake Battenfield had a second consecutive rough start: 3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Highlights:

Adolfo’s walk-off:

Winston-Salem 9, Asheville 7

  • Yoelqui Céspedes is on the baord: 2-for-4 with a walk.
  • Yolbert Sanchez went 2-for-4.
  • So did Lenyn Sosa, who homered and struck out.
  • Luis Curbelo went 0-for-4 with a K.
  • Duke Ellis went 2-for-4 with a strikeout, and 1-for-2 on the basepaths.

Kannapolis 4, Fayetteville 3

  • Jose Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a double and a strikeout, but committed three errors.
  • Chase Krogman went 1-for-4 with a K.
  • Bryan Ramos went 0-for-3 with a walk and a K.
  • Luis Mieses was 0-for-3 with a sac fly.
  • Lency Delgado wore the platinum sombrero.
  • Harvin Mendoza went 2-for-4.
  • Caberea Weaver went 1-for-3 with a strikeout and a stolen base.

(Photos by Sox Machine)

Author

  • Jim Margalus

    Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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asinwreck

Imagine telling any of us in June of 2017 that the 2021 Sox might field a stretch-run infield with Moncada at 3B and Burger at 2B.

Is it likely? No. But it is possible.

Trooper Galactus

In 2017 I think we’d have assumed their positions would have been switched.

Willardmarshall

A bit unsettling how much he looks like he’s trying to corral a rogue squirrel, but more power to him….

soxygen

I’m a little concerned that Cespedes may be losing his feel for how to get hit by a pitch

Joliet Orange Sox

I think getting hit by pitches is something that once you know how to do it you always know how to do it, just like falling off a bicycle.

Trooper Galactus

Or perhaps literally losing the feeling in his arm.

Root Cause

I hope everyone with an office realizes that Vaughn is the anomaly and everyone else is the norm.

knoxfire30

I think a Moncada IL stint or sending Mercendes down is the only thing that brings Burger up. Expecting him to man 2nd at this point isn’t a great idea. DH spot seems a viable option basically now and giving him a 10 day stint at 3rd if Moncada hits the IL wont hurt the club that much.

mikeyb

This continues to be the dumbest idea to me. If we have to internally plug an emergency at 2B with Jake Burger, we should be doing so by moving Moncada to 2B and calling up Burger (or playing Lamb at 3B).

burning-phoneix

I don’t really think they’re scrambling to get Jake Burger into the big leagues as soon as possible with this move to 2B, more like just building more positional flexibility across the farm system, which I feel is a good idea.

thehitlesswonder

I went to that Nashville vs. Charlotte game last night too. I had a blast. So much fun I’m thinking about going back before the knights leave