The waiting is the hardest part: Jake Burger, seen here playing for Kannapolis in 2017, is still the team’s No. 1 third base prospect despite missing two full seasons due to injury. (@Kcannonballers)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
The two third basemen who finished the year with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis have been disappointing, but for different reasons. While Yeyson Yrizarri has yet to advance to Birmingham despite spending nearly 2 ½ years with Winston-Salem, Jake Burger hasn’t even participated in game action for two years due to injuries. With that said, both guys are still young enough to attain their high ceilings — but 2020 will be a big year for both.
(age as of April 1, 2020)
Other positions played: Shortstop
Yrizarri was born in Venezuela but grew up in the Dominican Republic, where played in the International Prospect League. He’s the nephew of Deivi Cruz, a former major league shortstop who played in the majors from 1997-2005. Yrizarri’s aunt played on the Dominican national softball team and his older brother, righthander Deibi Yrizarri, pitched for three years in the Washington Nationals system. Based upon his talent and pedigree, the Rangers signed Yeyson to a $1.35 million bonus during 2013’s International Signing Day.
After holding his own with the Rangers DSL and AZL squads in 2014, Yrizarri actually began the 2015 season with a jump up to Triple-A Round Rock. Although he held his own in nine games there by slashing .273/.294/.364, he was sent down to Spokane (short-season A-ball), where he finished the year. Yrizarri spent the entire 2016 season with Hickory (A), and then split time with Hickory and Down East (A+) in 2017 prior to the White Sox acquiring him for international bonus pool money on July 15, 2017. In 31 games for the Dash that year, he slashed .295/.304/.330 with a homer.
Yrizarri has spent the last two seasons with the Dash, but his numbers have regressed during that time. In 2017 under the tutelage of Omar Vizquel, Yrizarri slashed .247/.296/.363 in 101 games with 21 doubles, two triples, six homers, 46 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 18 walks (4.5%) and 75 strikeouts (18.6%). This year for the Dash, Yrizarri slashed just .218/.262/.296 in 107 games with 17 doubles, one triple, three homers, 36 RBIs, five stolen bases, 17 walks (4.5%) and 90 strikeouts (23.6%).
This was the first year that Yrizarri was a regular third baseman, and it showed as he made 31 errors in just 97 games at that position. Right now, it’s doubtful if Yrizarri has the range of a shortstop or the power of a third baseman — looking more like a second baseman going forward. Yrizarri is still young, as he was about seven months younger than the Carolina League player last year. With that said, it’d be nice to see him make enough progress to earn a spot next year on the Birmingham roster.
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
After a good rookie season with Missouri State, Burger really tore up the Missouri Valley Conference during his final two years. As a sophomore in 2016, he slashed .349/.420/.689 in 56 games with 13 doubles, two triples, 21 homers, 72 RBIs, three stolen bases, 23 walks (8.6%) and 35 strikeouts (13.0%). His junior year was as good as his sophomore one, as he slashed .328/.443/.668 in 63 games with 13 doubles, 22 homers, 65 RBIs, three stolen bases, 43 walks (14.1%) and 38 strikeouts (12.5%). With the White Sox needing third base help, the White Sox selected Burger with the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Burger struggled a bit during his 2017 stints with the AZL squad and Kannapolis. In 51 combined games with both teams, he combined to slash .263/.336/.412 with 10 doubles, two triples, five homers, 29 RBIs, 14 walks (6.5%) and 30 strikeouts (13.8%). Burger likely was battling a little fatigue, as this would’ve been his longest baseball season to date.
Then the injuries began.
Burger tore his Achilles while running to first base during a spring training game in February 2018. He re-tore the same tendon 10 weeks after the initial injury while walking in his backyard, which caused him to miss not only the entire 2018 season but much of the 2019 season as well. Then, to add injury to insult, Burger severely bruised his heel during his rehab — ultimately derailing any chance of playing time in 2019. As a result, when Burger does step on the field again for an actual game, it would be the first time in approximately 30 months.
At the time of the 2017 draft, Baseball America said “Burger’s power is some of the best in this draft class. He’s a fastball hitter with above-average bat speed who can catch up to premium velocity, but he’s also aware enough of the strike zone and has the pitch recognition to lay off tough off-speed offerings to put himself in fastball counts.”
Burger still ranks 17th among White Sox prospects and first among the team’s third base prospects per MLB. And the Pipeline still gives him 55 grades for power and throwing arm, with respectable 50 grades for his hitting, fielding and running tools. While that latter tool will be in question thanks to Burger’s recent injuries, all the other tools should still be in play. Just expect a little rust when he returns to the field, which will likely be as a member of the Winston-Salem Dash to begin the 2020 season.