CHICAGO -- Jake Burger, the No. 10 third-base prospect in the game per MLB Pipeline, has been with the White Sox organization for less than one year, but he already has a Hall of Famer's cell number saved in his phone.Those digits belong to Jim Thome, a first-ballot selection to
CHICAGO -- Jake Burger, the No. 10 third-base prospect in the game per MLB Pipeline, has been with the White Sox organization for less than one year, but he already has a Hall of Famer's cell number saved in his phone.
Those digits belong to Jim Thome, a first-ballot selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as announced Wednesday, while also serving as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn. The man who produced 612 career home runs provides invaluable guidance to the young players forming the building blocks of the rebuild.
"He's always willing to help," said Burger, the team's top pick in the 2017 Draft, at SoxFest this weekend. "He gave me his number. He gave a lot of guys at [the instructional league] his number. He's like 'Hey whenever you have a problem just call me, whatever you want. Talk about hitting.'
"At the hitting camp [Jan. 15-20 in Arizona], we talked for a while about hitting. That was incredible, picking his brain just a little bit."
Along with the prodigious home-run power, the left-handed slugger finished with 1,699 career RBIs, 1,583 runs scored, 2,328 hits and a batting average of .276. He fanned 2,548 times, but he also drew an incredible 1,747 walks.
Thome posted a career .402 on-base percentage and a .956 OPS, giving him the Hall of Fame worthy numbers and the street cred to back up his words to players. Thome also has a thirst for knowledge concerning the art and craft of hitting, and as Burger's comments illustrated, is more than willing to share.
"The fact that [Thome] takes the time to hang out with us ... he asks us questions all the time about certain things," said White Sox starting pitcher Carson Fulmer. "As a pitcher, you try to get inside of a hitter's mind a little bit to figure out what their approach is going to be, and he's one of the best to ever do it. We always run stuff by him."
"He's got such a fantastic feel for hitting and what a productive offensive player looks like," Hahn said. "It's not necessarily a model of what he is or a duplication of his performance. He just has such a great knowledge of approach at the plate and what a productive at-bat looks like."
Then, of course there's Thome's nature as one of the classiest individuals in the game. Hahn quipped the real story would be to find the one person with even one small negative about Thome.
"You know who the jerk is if you can't get along with Jimmy," Hahn said with a laugh. "He's a Hall of Fame person more so than a Hall of Fame player: First-ballot Hall of Fame guy."
"Nicest guy I've ever met," added Fulmer with a broad smile.
Burger has yet to call Thome about hitting, but there will come a time, and Thome will be ready.
"If I can get one percent better, it's totally worth it," Burger said. "He's totally willing to help."
"To have a player of his caliber echo or amplify those sentiments, or put them in a different way that may connect with a player, is truly special," Hahn said. "And we are lucky to have him."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.