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Burks grabs AFL opportunity, runs with it

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League season ended Saturday, and it was a perfect opportunity for Cubs prospect Charcer Burks.

A ninth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Burks played for the Mesa Solar Sox, who lost to Peoria in the AFL championship game, 8-2, on Saturday. In 18 games, Burks, 22, batted .236 with seven doubles, seven RBIs and two stolen bases. He injured his side on the first day, but was able to participate more later in the season.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League season ended Saturday, and it was a perfect opportunity for Cubs prospect Charcer Burks.

A ninth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Burks played for the Mesa Solar Sox, who lost to Peoria in the AFL championship game, 8-2, on Saturday. In 18 games, Burks, 22, batted .236 with seven doubles, seven RBIs and two stolen bases. He injured his side on the first day, but was able to participate more later in the season.

Arizona Fall League coverage

"I was really excited to be named to participate in the Fall League," Burks said. "I was really hoping I got the opportunity, and that's exactly what it is -- an opportunity. It's an awesome opportunity to come out here and play with some of the best young players in the game and show I can hold my own.

"This is a very competitive environment," he said. "It's a lot of fun, more than anything. It's a blessing being out here."

Video: CIN@CHC: Burks smokes a three-run home run to left

Other Cubs prospects on Mesa included second baseman David Bote, who batted .333 in 19 games; catcher Ian Rice, who hit .311 in 13 games, and third baseman Jason Vosler, who hit .210 in 23 games. Among the pitching prospects, Jake Stinnett posted a 1.80 ERA in seven games, striking out 14 over 10 innings, while Pedro Araujo had a 1.74 ERA in nine games. Alec Mills made six starts and highly touted prospect Adbert Alzolay fanned 13 over 11 2/3 innings in seven games.

The AFL features top prospects who teams believe are close to reaching the Major Leagues. Even though some players are a little weary after long Minor League seasons, Burks said it was important preparation for a possible postseason run with the Cubs.

"Hopefully, next year, I'll be playing in October with the big league club, so this is a good experience for me to keep playing this long," he said, smiling.

On Monday, Burks may find out how close he is. The Cubs have seven players ranked in the Top 30 by MLBPipeline.com who need to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. That list includes Burks, ranked No. 22, and Alzolay (No. 3). Other Cubs prospects to be considered are right-handers Oscar De La Cruz (ranked No. 1), Trevor Clifton (No. 9) and Erling Moreno (No. 26); left-hander Jose Paulino (No. 29); and infielder/outfielder Chesny Young (No. 16). As of Friday, the Cubs' 40-man roster sat at 34.

Video: Adbert Alzolay possesses high potential

Burks does have a talent that he wants to emphasize more, and that's speed. He stole 28 bases in 2015 at Class A South Bend, 23 at Class A Myrtle Beach in '16, and 16 last year at Double-A Tennessee, where he batted .270.

"I do need to work on applying [my speed] more in games, stealing bases," Burks said. "That's a skill, a technique. Also, knowing the game, knowing counts and situations, and good situations to run. All of that stuff I'm starting to learn now and I think when I can put it all together, I can use my speed more."

Burks will now head home to Houston. He wasn't there when Hurricane Harvey hit, and said his family was spared from major damage. His aunt's house needed a new roof after the storm, and he had friends who had to deal with flooding.

"It was weird being away from all of that because you knew what was happening back home," Burks said. "It was kind of tough, but everyone managed to stay safe and everyone is fine, so that's the main thing. I could honestly care less about what happened to the house or property -- as long as everybody is safe, it's good."

He won't take much of a break. Burks credits his offseason training for helping him move up in the Cubs' system.

"Spring Training comes fast," Burks said. "Every offseason, I've learned what I need to do, how I need to go about my business to get ready for the next season. Every season for me has been better, and I think a good majority of that has come from my offseason."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago Cubs, Charcer Burks