Tale of the Tape
Weight: 210 lbs.
Players who look like Jake Burger does when they are in their draft year are nothing new to the prospecting community: a classic polished college slugger with video-game production across two seasons. This profile has made players like Richie Shaffer, Victor Roache, D.J. Peterson, Eric Jagielo and the prodigious Kris Bryant first-round picks in the last five years alone, and there are countless other examples throughout draft history.
While they aren’t especially similar as players, Burger’s story to date lines up most with that of Roache, as he was not a sought-after property coming out of high school. Victor passed up a 25th-round shot as a prep player to attend Georgia Southern and later became a first-round pick despite breaking his wrist in his final year on campus. Likewise, Burger went undrafted in 2014 and headed off to hometown Missouri State with little fanfare.
Since arriving on the MSU campus, Burger has done two things- hit, and hit for power. After a solid freshman campaign during which he was an everyday player and hit .342 with four dingers, Burger has absolutely erupted in the time since. His 2016 campaign likely completely changed the path of his life, putting him squarely on the draft map which had been uncharted territory to that point. He was able to maintain a similar batting average and approach, but clocked 21 home runs in just 56 games. His effort last season earned him a spot on the USCNT where he continued to impress, and also made him a Golden Spikes semifinalist.
In the follow-up to his smash-hit sophomore season, Burger has done nothing but meet expectations for his MSU club, and has in fact surpassed what he did last year in a number of ways. While he still needs four more dingers to match his 21 from 2016, he has taken another step forward as a pure hitter and has maintained a strikeout rate of just ten percent. His efforts have carried the Bears to an undefeated conference record and 28-13 record overall.
Burger leaves absolutely nothing to be desired with his college production, and he comes without a lot of the knocks that players with his profile have had in the past. He does not play in a Coors Field-type college environment as D.J. Peterson did, and is not a dead-pull hitter as many college sluggers tend to be. He is more than capable of getting the ball out the other way and he has loft in his swing that many hitters do not develop until later in their careers.
The Bears’ third baseman has a very clean swing with good hands and above-average bat speed. His approach jumps off the screen and he is going to be an incredibly tough out for low-minors pitching. Watching him hit, it is almost baffling that he was so unheard-of as a prep player. While he played in a state not typically known for its rich talent level and had some extra weight on his frame, he handles the bat incredibly well and has readily apparent power.
On defense, Burger is less exciting. While his arm strength is solid and he has improved his body steadily over the years, Burger has some trouble with his hands and has been a bit error-prone as a Bear. There is a chance he could be moved to first or an outfield corner down the line, but his bat will be able to carry him at any position.
Projected Draft Range
Burger will be a first-round selection, likely in the second half. However, he could have helium late if teams fall in love with the bat as many have already.
Does he make sense for the Astros?
Absolutely. He has similarities to past Houston draftees such as A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis and could be the player that many envisioned when Reed burst onto the scene. If he is available when the Astros make their first selection, I think he would be very difficult to pass on.
Will he sign?
Definitely. Burger has nothing left to prove at the college level and his stock is currently at its peak.
Major League Comparison
This is a lofty choice, but Burger’s game is reminiscent of a player like earlier career Edwin Encarnacion. Both have outstanding power, good approaches with relatively low strikeout rates for power hitters, but also turn in generally sub-par defensive performances.