The Chicago White Sox will head into the 2022 season as solid favorites to win the American League Central Division. They return a core of players that lead them to 93 wins in 2021 and are hoping to make an extended run into October. That said, the roster is not fully set yet, at least in the eyes of Sox fans. There are a couple of holes that General Manager Rick Hahn will need to fill if the Sox are going to make it to the Fall Classic. Hopefully, once there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place, Hahn will agree with fans and acquire the players needed for the ultimate victory.
In terms of needs, Sox fans have made no secret of their desire to see two positions addressed: right field and second base. It would appear for now that Andrew Vaughn will get the first shot at right field, but that could change. Second base appears to be a little more unsettled, as the potential starter could be super-utility man Leury Garcia. This would be based strictly on his experience, but there may be other options. That leads us to the subject for discussion today, one many fans have suggested on social media this winter: What about Jake Burger getting a shot at second base?
Jake Burger – An Inspiring Story
Jake Burger is the kind of player that fans love to root for, including fans outside Chicago. He has an amazing back story, one of perseverance, dedication, and hard work that has helped get him to the South Side in 2021. Burger, the Sox first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2017 draft, was heralded as a big-time hitter coming out of Missouri State University. He had a promising future, and Sox fans looked forward to seeing him hit bombs out of Guaranteed Rate Field sooner than later. While not a guarantee, he figured to have an excellent chance to play at the MLB level shortly.
Unfortunately, in spring training. 2018, Burger ruptured his Achilles running to first base. While he was recovering at home, less than three months later, he reinjured the Achilles. This would set him back even further in his rehab, and the disappointments caused anxiety and depression for the would-be slugger. Still, he battled, refusing to accept that his career was over. After losing 40 pounds and working incredibly hard, Burger resurrected his career. He sat out the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and there was no minor league season in 2020. The only baseball he played was at the team’s alternative site in 2020.
Finally, in 2021, Burger was healthy and ready to play baseball. He began his season in AAA Charlotte, hitting the ball well. Then, on July 2, 2021, Burger was called up to the South Side and made his MLB debut. Overall, Burger appeared in 15 games with the Sox, slashing .263/.333/.474. He collected one home run and three RBIs in 42 plate appearances. While the power numbers were nothing special, his OPS of .807 convinced many fans of his ability to develop into a solid MLB hitter.
What Does 2022 Hold For Jake Burger?
Which brings us back to the matter at hand – how does Jake Burger fit into the White Sox plans for 2022? Or does he fit into the plan at all? For many fans, Burger is a superstar in waiting, just needing to play to show his hitting prowess. For others, he is as much a suspect as he is a prospect, whose future is very much in question. The South Siders are hoping to make a deep playoff run this year, and Burger is an unproven commodity. Potential is one thing, but it is only unrealized potential, especially for a contender. So, what about Jake Burger?
The White Sox are likely set at all positions except for right field and second base, as mentioned above. From a practical standpoint, it is difficult to imagine Burger, a natural third baseman, in right field. So, the question would be how to squeeze Burger into the infield. This is where Sox fans have been very willing to share their opinions. Those wanting to see him on the South Side suggest that there are two very distinct ways to get Burger into the White Sox lineup in 2022.
Jake Burger: Possibilities
The White Sox are still in need of a starting second baseman for 2022. A fair number of fans have suggested that Burger, lighter now than when he was drafted, could fill the need. Yes, he has never played second base; but, he is in good shape, and he has played third base. Many players have moved from third base to second base, with Mike Moustakas being the latest. While Burger would probably not win a Gold Glove, his bat would more than make up for his defensive deficiencies. Besides, such a move would allow Garcia to remain as the Sox super-utility man. It’s a win-win, fans will say. That is one possibility.
A second possibility for Burger, as the fans see it, would be for the White Sox to move current third baseman, Yoan Moncada, to second base. Then, Burger could be slotted into his natural position, third base. After all, Moncada has played second base in the past, and this move would allow the Sox to get Burger’s potentially powerful bat in the lineup. In fact, playing his natural position might even allow him to become a quality MLB hitter sooner, as he would not be adjusting to a whole new position.
The final opportunity, which has not received as much discussion as the other two, would be for Burger to be the White Sox full-time designated hitter. Such a move would take his defensive skills (or lack of same) out of the equation, and help solidify the Sox already potent lineup. It would also require no adjustments at any other positions, and, thus, less disruption for a team that won 93 games in 2021. If Burger hits, as well as many, think he will, this might turn the Sox lineup into a juggernaut. Visions of a World Series would be dancing in the heads of Sox fans everywhere!
Realistic 2022 Probabilities for Jake Burger
While the above scenarios are possible, they are also that – scenarios. In reality, it seems highly unlikely that Burger could adjust to second base quickly enough to win the job out of spring training. There is a lot to learn in such a move, and it would take time. The Sox are in win-now mode and do not have the luxury of time. Likewise, moving Moncada back to second base seems rather foolhardy. He struggled defensively there, and hit bat came alive when he moved to third. He also plays an excellent third base.
Lastly, the DH idea seems like a long shot at this point and has not been a major discussion point. Burger would no doubt have to compete with his minor league teammate, Gavin Sheets, a promising left-handed slugger. Based on his 2021 performance at the MLB level, Sheets would have the upper hand in such a competition. Given the fact that the Sox are heavily right-handed, Sheets will be given every opportunity to earn a spot in the lineup. So, chances are that Burger will not be the full-time DH.
So, in the final analysis, where does this leave Jake Burger? At this point, he would appear to be a man without a position. On top of that, he is still more of a suspect than a prospect, something he will have to work hard to overcome. Of course, hard work doesn’t scare Jake Burger, so we would never want to count him out. However, if the White Sox are to be serious contenders in 2022, there may not be room on the roster for Jake Burger. While all fans will be rooting for him, that appeared to be the reality for Jake Burger in 2022.
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