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White Sox add resilient Burger to 40-man

@scottmerkin
November 20, 2020

CHICAGO -- When the White Sox purchased the contract of Jake Burger on Friday, adding him to their 40-man roster, it marked another step toward the Majors for the team’s No. 14 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. “’In order to rise from its own ashes; a Phoenix must first burn,’” Burger

CHICAGO -- When the White Sox purchased the contract of Jake Burger on Friday, adding him to their 40-man roster, it marked another step toward the Majors for the team’s No. 14 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“’In order to rise from its own ashes; a Phoenix must first burn,’” Burger tweeted on Friday. “Job isn’t done... this is only the beginning!”

Burger was one of four players added to the White Sox 40-man roster Friday, increasing the total to 40 overall. Left-handed-hitting infielder Gavin Sheets and right-handed pitcher Tyler Johnson also had their contracts purchased, shielding them from being taken by any of the other 29 teams in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10.

But with no offense to any of the other players involved, this small move for Burger is the most uplifting. The team’s top pick and 11th overall selection in the 2017 Draft has been likened by some to the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber in regard to how the ball jumps off his bat. But after rupturing his left Achilles tendon twice and suffering a bruised left heel, the right-handed-hitting third baseman last played in a Minor League game for Class A Kannapolis on Sept. 4, 2017.

The 24-year-old returned to action this past summer in the CarShield Collegiate League near his Missouri home. He also took part in playing at the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill., during the 2020 season, and then participated in instructional league action in Arizona. After struggling with depression stemming from his setbacks and then using his story to help others dealing with the same sort of issue, Burger truly seems to be back on track.

“Any sort of roadblock that he faces not only in baseball but in life, you point now to that experience, and now he should have more confidence working through whatever's in front of him,” said White Sox director of player development Chris Getz, whom Burger praised in a late-season interview for his assistance during tough times. “When he came by Schaumburg for the first time, looking at him physically, talking to him, I knew we were in a really, really good spot.

“And watching him play, getting his reps at third base, it looks like the old Jake Burger. The at-bats and the life in his body and the way he's interacting with his teammates, I'm so happy for the kid, and a secondary piece, just happy for the organization, really. To invest in a player like that and a person like that, and now to overcome what he has and to be in a position to get out there and be the player we thought he could always be, it doesn't get much better.”

Sheets, the No. 10 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, was selected in the second round of the 2017 Draft. Johnson, who is the No. 24 prospect, was selected in the fifth round of that same Draft. Shortstop Lenyn Sosa (No. 25), outfielder Luis Mieses (No. 28) and right-handed pitcher Will Kincanon (No. 29) were not added to the 40-man among the Top 30 White Sox prospects.

Right-handed pitcher Emilio Vargas also was claimed off waivers by the White Sox from the D-backs. Vargas, 24, went 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 96 innings over 20 starts between Double-A Jackson and the Rookie-level Diamondbacks in 2019. He has a 3.48 ERA and 554 strikeouts over 569 2/3 career Minor League innings.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.