The 2017 MLB draft is coming up in less than a month. Here is a break down of one of the best corner-infield bats in Missouri State’s star third baseman Jake Burger.
Jake Burger 2017 Draft Profile
Burger is a classic college success story. A Missouri native through and through, Burger attended Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. He went undrafted out of high school. In fact, he was so lightly regarded at the time that he ended up in Springfield at Missouri State University with few major schools showing significant interest. Burger has not looked back since.
Burger has steadily improved during his time at Missouri State. He won the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year two seasons ago and was just getting started. His numbers skyrocketed as a sophomore in 2016 to .349/.420/.689 with 21 homer runs and 72 RBI. This performance was good enough to earn him a spot on the U.S. Collegiate National team.
Burger has been even better this season by improving his plate discipline, which has led to a modest but meaningful increase in his OBP and slugging percentage. His performance this season has vaulted him from a likely mid-round prospect to a top-20 prospect in 2017.
It is anyone’s guess where players will end up in the middle of the first round, but most draft experts have Burger going anywhere from 15 to the Houston Astros (Baseball America’s John Manuel) to 18 to the Detroit Tigers (the Sporting News Staff). Other teams drafting in that area include the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, and New York Yankees.
Missouri State’s coaching staff marveled at both Burger’s raw power and overall hitting ability in high school. After he put up good-not-great numbers as a freshman, the coaches altered Burger’s approach to favor fly balls over hitting the ball up the middle to allow his power to flourish. The improved approach has improved Burger’s power, while he has seen only a modest upswing in his strikeout rate. Burger has compensated that by drawing more walks this season.
Burger is still a very aggressive hitter, especially on pitches in the zone, and some scouts still want him to improve on his plate discipline without sacrificing his power stroke. Regardless, he is an advanced hitter and power threat, and Burger could shoot to the majors quickly if his bat continues the developmental trends it has been on in the minor leagues.
Defensively, scouts are much more split on Burger’s future. Some look at his plus arm and, thus far, adequate range and see a future bat-first, but playable, defensive third baseman. Others look at his beefy 6’2″, 220 pound frame and worry that he needs to lose weight to have a future at the hot corner. This is probably true given that players begin losing small amounts of foot speed as they develop, but Burger’s bat should allow him to stick at first base, and his arm even makes him a potential right fielder.
Burger is the type of player who, if a team believes in his bat, they will draft him first and worry about positioning later. The Royals, Astros, Tigers, Mariners, and Mets all have significant money or interest invested in a prospect at third, but a right-handed slugger with 25-homer power is something all teams could find a place for.
The Yankees at pick 16 seem like a very nice option. Chase Headley only has one more year on his contract after this season, and Yankees Stadium plays favorably to power, although more for lefty hitters than right-handed batters. Still, New York is one of the few teams without a huge financial commitment or a top prospect at the hot corner, and thus might target Burger as a quick fix.