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Burns named AFL Player of the Week

Toronto prospect joined by Rafters teammate Hutchison in top billing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 2013 Arizona Fall League season has offered Andy Burns a chance to broaden his baseball perspective, increase his versatility.

The 23-year-old prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays played third base for most of the summer at Class A Advanced Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. But in the AFL, he has seen time at first base and even in left field in addition to the hot corner.

"Learning new positions, the more of them I can play, will only help me, hopefully get me out on the field more," said Burns, who plays for the Salt River Rafters. "You have to be flexible."

Burns also packed a few potent bats in his bag when he came to Arizona. In the fourth week of the six-week AFL season, he led all players in hitting (.538) and OPS (1.416), was tied for the lead in hits and was tied for second in doubles and total bases. He also had four walks, five RBIs and a pair of stolen bases.

Burns was selected the AFL's Player of the Week. Rafters teammate Drew Hutchison, also from the Blue Jays' organization, was named the Pitcher of the Week.

"The talent in this league is as good as you're going to see," Burns said. "We have a great team, great coaches ... you have to show up ready to compete every day."

Entering the new week, Burns ranked eighth in the league in hitting at .333.

"I have really improved on my plate discipline," he said. "You have to be patient, lay off the other stuff (pitches) that could get you in trouble."

Burns has had somewhat of a nomadic career, both in college and pro ball. The two-time Colorado high school player of the year (Fort Collins) played at the University of Kentucky for two seasons, then transferred to the University of Arizona. He had to sit out a year, then played as a junior in 2011. The Blue Jays selected Burns in the 11th round of the Draft.

Burns played with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays (Rookie League) and Vancouver (Northwest), Lansing (Midwest) and then Dunedin and New Hampshire. He has a .274 average with 27 home runs, 136 RBIs, 94 walks and 157 runs scored in the Minors.

Burns' college path was similar to Jason Kipnis, who transferred from Kentucky to Arizona State. Kipnis played center field at ASU before being drafted, and the Cleveland Indians turned him into a second baseman, a position where he figures to be a fixture for a long time.

Sitting out his transfer year allowed Burns to grow and develop a new appreciation for the game.

"You realize how quickly the game can be taken away from you," he said. "I wasn't able to play, but I learned so much by watching."

If Burns can come close to duplicating what Kipnis did, he will be happy. He knows, however, he will have to continue to make adjustments.

"It was a little weird going over to first base, getting used to that, and when I went to left field, it was quite a bit different," Burns said. "But first base has gotten easier for me. The outfield, the coaches have said, 'Just play catch. Just play baseball.' It's tough, but it's a lot of fun."

Early in his time in the Minor Leagues, Burns said he tried to do too much at the plate, but he now considers himself well-rounded.

"I won't hit 25 or 30 home runs, but I will hit my share," he said. "I will hit my doubles, and you take the singles when you can get them.

"If I get all my work in, things will fall into place. Sometimes you even need to do extra work. I don't want to be just adequate. I want to be more than that."

Don Ketchum is a contributor to
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