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Burger showing progress as power threat

White Sox top Draft pick working on elevating batted balls to unlock potential
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Jake Burger possesses an intangible "it" factor, a fact that is readily apparent to anyone who watches the White Sox top pick in the 2017 Draft (11th selection overall) interact with teammates or peeks at his conversations on Twitter.

But the White Sox need Burger, their No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to have a major hit factor, as well, if he's to become the third baseman of the future. The 21-year-old product of Missouri State produced a .263 average with five home runs, 10 doubles, a .749 OPS and 29 RBIs over stops with the White Sox Arizona Rookie League team and Class A Kannapolis during his debut campaign. He then worked with Minor League hitting instructor Mike Gellinger in the instructional league on elevating more batted balls to take advantage of his power.

CHICAGO -- Jake Burger possesses an intangible "it" factor, a fact that is readily apparent to anyone who watches the White Sox top pick in the 2017 Draft (11th selection overall) interact with teammates or peeks at his conversations on Twitter.

But the White Sox need Burger, their No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to have a major hit factor, as well, if he's to become the third baseman of the future. The 21-year-old product of Missouri State produced a .263 average with five home runs, 10 doubles, a .749 OPS and 29 RBIs over stops with the White Sox Arizona Rookie League team and Class A Kannapolis during his debut campaign. He then worked with Minor League hitting instructor Mike Gellinger in the instructional league on elevating more batted balls to take advantage of his power.

• White Sox Top 30 prospects

"It's a couple of tweaks in my swing that ultimately will produce more of the fly balls that we want," said the upbeat Burger, who moved full-time to Arizona during the offseason to continue working with Gellinger and the organization's strength and conditioning staff.

"Just kind of focus on a couple of things with your hands. It's nothing too crazy. It's just knowing where the hands should slot and then where they should explode from. It's been good."

Gellinger liked what he saw from Burger, pointing out how he got a few sinkers in from right-handed hurlers and put them in the air during games.

"Guys throw sinkers, right-handers to a right-handed hitter, they throw sinkers because they want you to hit it on the ground," Gellinger said. "He got inside those balls and hit line drives. It wasn't popups or flares or anything. It was line drives that he got to. It was really good to see."

Gavin Sheets, the 21-year-old, second-round pick in the '17 Draft, followed a similar instructional league path as Burger did. The left-handed-hitting first baseman's quest to unlock his power included adding a leg lift in his swing, after hitting .279 with four home runs, 12 doubles, a .762 OPS and 28 RBIs during stints with Arizona and Kannapolis.

Video: 2017 Draft: White Sox draft 1B Gavin Sheets No. 49

"Getting a little bit of a leg lift and just working on some things to get more power to all fields," said Sheets. "That was something I came in wanting to work on and they jumped on it right away."

"Results have not shown up in instructional league, but I believe that he will by the time the next season turns around," said Gellinger of Sheets, the White Sox No. 15 prospect. "A little more of a leg kick actually means he's trying to get more ground on his stride. He's trying to get a little bit wider, land a little bit wider, gain a little bit more ground. Put his body in a stronger position."

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.

 

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