By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Moving ahead with their rebuilding plan, the White Sox on Monday evening selected Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger with the No. 11 overall pick in the MLB amateur draft. With a power bat, Burger fits into the formula the front office has in mind for the future.
“He appeared to some of our people as a comp to Todd Frazier,” scouting director Nik Hostetler said. “I think more Gary Gaetti when I look at his skills. He is a high-energy guy who can really swing the bat. He is an offense-first guy. He has big, big raw power. We are talking 25/3- type home run power. A Frazier comp is not bad.”
The philosophy of the White Sox has changed on numerous occasions over the past 16 seasons. Chicago had done well when drafting pitching and poorly when trying to identify position players.
The selection of the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon have been quality moves for the White Sox through the years, whereas the drafting of shortstop Tim Anderson in 2013 is the only recent apparent position-player success in years.
The last White Sox first-round position player to truly pan out was outfielder Aaron Rowand in 1998. Before Rowand, the last impactful position player chosen in the first round by the White Sox was Frank Thomas in 1989. The lack of success has caused the front office to employ three scouting directors in the past 10 seasons.
That burden now falls on Hostetler, who was overseeing his second draft Monday evening. Previously, he insisted that if the White Sox took a position player in the first round, the swing-and-miss element of that player’s game would be marginal. Burger fits that bill, as he struck out just 38 times in just more than 300 plate appearances in 2017.
“We were looking for the best guy for what our future philosophy will be,” Hostetler said before the draft. “We wanted to eliminate the guy who is a swing-and-miss (hitter). We wanted guys who put the ball in play. We wanted pitchers that pound the strike zone. That is what we want to stick with as we pick out our future players. We said we will still take our shots at certain times. At certain times you must step outside the box (with your organizational philosophy). You don’t want the same type of player throughout your system.”
The development of 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins, a catcher, is ongoing. He’s hitting just .219 with some strikeouts problems at advanced Class-A Winston-Salem but does have an .820 OPS.
Now, Burger represents the hybrid of power potential and contact ability the White Sox are looking for in their young players. He’s a Chesterfield, Mo., native who grew up a White Sox fan and called Paul Konerko his favorite Chicago player.
The plan is to keep the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Burger at third base, though some scouts project him as a first baseman. He’ll likely report to Class-A Kannapolis as a starting point for his professional career.
“We expect Jake to stay at third base,” Hostetler said. “This is the organizational philosophy that (general manager Rick Hahn) wanted when he took over (with the better walk-to-strikeout ratio). He wanted guys that get on base, high-OBP guys. We are following through with that plan.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.