Are the White Sox WASTING Jake Burger??

The White Sox drafted Jake Burger 11th overall out of Missouri State University in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. I remember the night of the draft, we were sitting in the ballpark, awaiting a post-Chris Sale White Sox squad to take the field as the rebuild was on-going. Chorizy-E leaned over to me to tell me how much he thought Burger would be the guy. Jake is built like he’s from central casting of 108 characters. He’s 6’2″ 230lbs (ALLEGEDLY) and he loves food and fun! One slight difference between us and old Jake. The man raked….

The hype surrounding this pick was astounding for 11th overall and Jake responded with a modest remainder of 2017 in White Sox affiliate ball, followed by an invite to big league spring training in 2018. That’s when his career would forever be altered. On February 26, 2018 he was running out a ground ball and tore his achilles tendon. An injury that sounds about as painful as I imagine it is. Burger would be sidelined for a bit. Then, not 10 weeks later, after surgery, Burger tore the achilles again, just in normal rehab activities. OOF!

Picture from the Chicago Tribune

Career Altering Injury…

The achilles injury that Jake suffered ostensibly kept him out of baseball for both 2018 and 2019. (Imagine a real injury stunting your development, not just having to stand on the grass with a glove). That’s tough sledding. THEN….the pandemic hit in early 2020 and wiped out baseball for several months. Not only that, it absolutely demolished affiliate ball, that just didn’t happen at all. Each team however had what was deemed an “Alternate Site”, which is where they could house players they might end up using for the 2020 season. With COVID-19 wildly ripping through the clubhouses and altering rosters, it was a necessary measure.

Jake, however, was not initially invited by the White Sox to the Alternate Site. Instead, he participated in the CarShield Collegiate League near St. Louis. WAT??? That’s right, the White Sox, did not bringing their top draft pick just 3 years earlier to the Alternate Site. The guy who has battled through two career threatening injuries, was persona non-grata. They decided to tell him to play semi-pro ball on some park fields or some shit. I just envision McKinley Park’s men’s league and Jake is stepping up to mash taters. Incredible! Finally, after his devastation of the farmers league took hold, the White Sox changed course and invited Jake to join the Schaumburg Alternate Site on August 19, 2020.

Jake Burger’s Career is BACK ON TRACK!!

Getty Images

In November of 2020, the White Sox, in a wild turn of events decided to add Jake Burger to their 40 man roster. Admittedly, this shocked the shit outta me, since the guy was playing in some rec league just 6 months earlier. But who am I to judge? The 2021 season saw Jake get right back on track, reporting to Charlotte and mashing nearly instantly. He slashed .274 / .332 / .513 (that’s an .845 OPS, kids) earning himself a little cup of coffee (NOT CUPPY COFFEE!) with the Sox where he continued to hit. Burger dropped an .807 OPS in just 42 plate appearances with the big club. A huge success for a guy who spent 2 years not playing at all.

Fast forward to 2022 and an injury to Yoan Moncada opens up even more playing time for this blog’s hero. Jake responds by coming to Chicago and filling in at the plate for Moncada more than adequately. Mashing 8 Home Runs in 183 PA (in the toughest home run environment of this century), with a .761 OPS, which was good for a 112 OPS+ (12% above league average hitting). His glove work at 3b left a little to be desired (putting it nicely), but certainly an adequate fill in with the bat. Especially when considering Moncada’s season long line of .626 OPS and 76 OPS+ was miles behind Burger’s.

I even blogged about Burger back in the middle of 2022 (you can read that HERE) and his home run trot that is faster than necessary in my book. However, in that blog (which was somewhat in jest) I note that he had the highest percentage and highest amount of NO DOUBT home runs on the team. That is home runs that would clear the fence at all 30 ballparks. One quick flip of his Baseball Savant page will lead you to some data that should also catch your eye about his ability to impact the baseball.

Are the White Sox Wasting Jake Burger?

In the lord’s year (and baseball season of) 2023, I am asking the question OUT LOUD, “ARE THE WHITE SOX WASTING JAKE BURGER?”. Admittedly, I have thought about this ranging back into the 2022 season when the team was desperate for power hitting and continued to trot out their underperforming blue chip lineup. Recently on the 108 podcast we had a discussion about what we would do with the White Sox bench heading into the 2023 season and I courageously (I might add) included both Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets. For now, let’s just focus in on Burger.

Jake Burger, or as he’s more affectionately called, “Rake Burger” smashes left handed pitching. Now, you long-time White Sox fans will say, so what Beef? This team eats lefties. That was certainly true in 2020 and to a lesser degree in 2021 and then 2022. Now the team is adding two prominently lefty bats to the roster in Andrew Benintendi and Oscar Colas. Dare I say, they might essentially have a balanced lineup. That balance would seem to crave a right handed bench bat with some thump. ENTER JAKE BURGER.

Current White Sox vs Left Handed Pitching

This is 1 of 1 on my list of reasons to add Jake Burger to the 26 man roster and not let him languish in Charlotte. He’s a much better hitter versus Left Handed Pitching than Yoan Moncada. Small Sample Sizes acknowledged. Moncada has been a big league regular since the middle of 2017 and I think it’s time that we sit him down versus Left Handed Pitching as much as possible. We are trying to win, not hold on to this prospect pedigree.

Okay, well that’s some use for Burger on the big league roster, what else? Well, we can probably use him as a late pinch hitter versus Lefties too, right? Especially with our brand new left handed hitting corner outfielders. Below is the same table, except this time I included all the people that my twitter feed are clamoring for to have a bench spot instead of Burger. Let’s see who you like in a high leverage late inning plate appearance?

This seems pretty obvious, if a back end of the bullpen lefty is in vs any of these guys, I think we can comfortably call on Jake. But what else? He could give Andrew Vaughn a much needed day at DH or off (remember how tender his back would get?). He can flex to DH when Eloy Jimenez needs to go into the outfield to give Colas or Benintendi a day. We know Romy Gonzalez will need a late inning pinch hitter basically all of the time until he gets his sea legs under him. BOOM!! I got this man 300 plate appearances, most in his highly effective state of facing left handed pitching.

Anything Else?

Players of Jake Burger’s ilk are pretty tough to trade. And as you can see the White Sox, despite having a locked in young First Baseman and his opposite handed back up, have been unable to move him. Right handed, no position, power bats are generally more usable to the creative team, but tough to be able to trade. This is why in my SoxMachine off-season plan I made a play for trading AV and platooning Burger and Sheets at First Base, because it was the easiest way to make use of all three of these guys. However, as you can see from the tables above, I think an inventive team should be able to make good use of a guy with prodigious power on this roster.

Jake is down to a single minor league option, so making this type of commitment now is imperative. Especially with the next crop of White Sox blue chip positions players on their way in the next 12 to 18 months. I don’t want to see the White Sox just waste Jake Burger. In a year, I don’t want him going to the Oakland A’s and smashing 18 home runs in part-time play. I want that shit to happen HERE!! Also, when you start popping up on ZiPS and PECOTA as a sub .500 team, you need to start taking some chances with roster construction and in-game deployments to maximize the talent on hand. Having Hamilton, Marisnick or Reyes on the roster ain’t going to to do that for you…..but Jake Burger, just might.



Leave a Reply