The White Sox selected Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger with the No. 11 pick in the first round of the MLB Draft Monday night.
Burger is a 21 year old who hit .328/.443/.648 during his junior season with the Bears. Most scouting reports you’ll find call him one of the best college bats in the draft, someone with big power who also projects to have the ability to hit for average.
There are questions about whether or not he’ll be able to stay at third base long term, but like with Zack Collins at catcher, the White Sox will likely give him every opportunity to prove he can. Here’s MLB.com’s scouting report:
With 10 of its pitchers appearing in the Majors since the turn of the century, Missouri State is known for producing mound talent. Yet the Bears’ two best big leaguers have been position players Bill Mueller and Ryan Howard, and they should have their first ever selected in the first round in 2017. Burger went undrafted out of high school but has blossomed into a college star, finishing second in NCAA Division I with 21 home runs in 2016 and winning Missouri Valley Conference player of the year honors this spring, when he led the league in all three triple crown categories (.341-22-63) entering NCAA tournament play. Though he went homerless with the U.S. college national team during the summer, scouts still recognize Burger as one of the top power sources available in a Draft class short on college hitters. He generates his pop more with strength than bat speed, and there are some worries about an arm bar in his right-handed swing. He controls the strike zone well and makes reliable contact for a slugger, so he should hit for some average as well. While Burger isn’t the most graceful player, one scout compared him to Hunter Pence for his ability to get the job done in less than pretty fashion. Despite his large frame, he has average speed out of the batter’s box and decent range at third base. With his solid arm, reliable hands and admirable work ethic, he should be able to stay at the hot corner.
Regardless, he’s a welcome addition to an organization that is deep in pitching but less so from a positional standpoint. It’s yet to be determined where he’ll slot in the system’s individual rankings, but he joins Collins, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, and Luis Alexander Basabe as potential above average bats in the system.
The White Sox continued their search for power in the second round, taking left-handed first baseman Gavin Sheets at No. 49 overall. Like Burger, Sheets’ value is almost entirely tied to his bat. Unlike Burger, who has a shot at sticking at the hot corner, Sheets seems to be solely the first base/DH type. Burger and Sheets combined to hit 42 home runs in 2017. Here’s MLB.com’s scouting report on Sheets:
For the second straight year, Wake Forest has a big-bodied corner infielder who will factor into the early rounds of the Draft. Sheets won’t go in the first round like Will Craig did to the Pirates in 2016, but he could go in the top three rounds to a team seeking left-handed power. The son of former big league outfielder Larry Sheets, he played for his father at Baltimore’s Gilman High before turning down the Braves as a 37th-round pick in 2014. An imposing presence at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Sheets has ranked among the NCAA Division I home run leaders this spring. He has a pretty swing and impressive strength, though there are some concerns about whether he has the bat speed to do damage against big league fastballs. He has made improvements to his plate discipline and pitch recognition this spring, giving him a chance to hit for average to go with his pop. Though Sheets is a well below-average runner, he moves well for his size. He gets the job done at first base and has plenty of arm strength to turn 3-6-3 double plays. First base and DH are his only possible positions, so he’ll have to hit.
Whether it is just coincidental given the players available when they selected or not, the White Sox have ended the night with a pair of bats who, if they reach their respective ceilings, could be impact power bats in years to come.
The draft continues Tuesday with rounds 3-10.
Lead Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports