How new dad Burger is approaching '23

November 28th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin's White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- and his wife, Ashlyn, are basking in the joy of their newborn son, Brooks. So, with his sleep schedule already readjusted, the 26-year-old father doesn’t spend much of his free time thinking about his White Sox fit moving forward. The 2017 first-round Draft pick is ready for anything.

It’s a popular question at this time of the year, with baseball’s annual Winter Meetings beginning Sunday in San Diego and running through Wednesday. Burger finished the season with eight home runs, nine doubles and 26 RBIs over 168 at-bats in 2022 and recorded the game-winning RBI in four consecutive White Sox victories from May 25-June 5.

Burger can hit at the Major League level and could fit in at designated hitter, especially if franchise staple José Abreu moves on after nine years in Chicago and Andrew Vaughn takes over at first base. But Burger also wants to be ready at third base, even with Yoán Moncada as the incumbent, and he has worked diligently this offseason to improve that defensive area of his game.

“I had a stretch there where it was like I felt like every game I was making an error,” Burger told during a recent phone interview. “And, you know, it’s just controlling the mindset there. I know what type of player I am defensively, and if you let the one or two bad mistakes kind of eat at you, it just kind of spirals out of control. That’s what happened this year. I was just trying to control that a little better. Make it one small event rather than let it spiral out of control.

“Obviously, it didn’t help because it was big situations, so [errors] are a little more magnified than they otherwise would be. I’m still very confident. There’s no one that is going to be harder on themselves than I am when it comes to that. I want to help the team win in any way. Just kind of controlling that, realizing that. ‘Hey, let’s move on. You got the next one,’ instead of thinking about that too much.”

There’s more than mental improvement going on for Burger. After identifying the high hopper to his backhand as an issue for him at third, Burger has been doing a lot of things to work on body composition and that first quick step.

All of his work has been at third, despite second base now being somewhat open for the White Sox and Burger having played there for five innings over three big league games.

“So, I’ve been really kind of focused on that, focused on my first step in, getting that early read, so I can attack the ball and get it out of my glove quicker,” said Burger of the high hopper to his right. “I was kind of, like, sitting back and getting the middle hop rather than attacking and coming through it.”

In 37 games covering 326 innings at third last season, Burger committed six errors. Physical mistakes are part of the game, and while Burger can’t remember the person who gave him this piece of advice, he was told “I hope you make 100 errors in your career, because that means you played this game for a really long time.”

“You can’t let the mental side of it affect you too much,” Burger said. “Just realize it happens, it’s baseball. It’s going to happen from time to time.”