Diamondbacks Prospect #32: 3B Brandon Burgess

Diamondbacks Prospect #32: 3B Brandon Burgess

Brandon Burgess has made a smooth transition from outfield to third base, and now ranks as one of the better infield power threats in the organization.

Vitals:

Name: Brandon Burgess
Draft: 6th Round, 2004
Position: Third Base
DOB: 2/24/1983
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 225 lbs
B/T: S/R

History: Despite being drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 Amateur Draft, Brandon Burgess soon began fading into the background.  His 2004 professional debut was nothing short of awful, and while his 2005 numbers impressed, they came repeating a short-season level at the ripe age of 22.  At the beginning of the 2006 season, Burgess was lost in a crowded outfield situation, as the Diamondbacks had just added Justin Upton and Chris Young to their outfield ranks.

He began that season well by hitting .300 in April, but batted just .243 in the next two months.  Still, he'd hit 14 homers in just over 200 at bats, and the front office wanted to make sure Burgess had a place to play if his power continued to develop.  The solution was to move the big corner outfielder to third base.

"Last year as an outfielder in an organization just stacked full of huge outfield prospects - not to say I couldn't make it there; I think I could - it's just given me some other avenues to pursue, being able to play the infield," Burgess told FutureBacks at the end of the 2007 season.    

The transition on defense was difficult, but if it affected his offense, it was in a positive way.  He showed unusual selectivity in July, drawing 18 of his 39 walks that month.  He then cut loose, driving in 26 runs that August and finishing the year with a league-leading 26 home runs.

The 2007 season again started well for Burgess, but he pulled an oblique muscle during a late-April batting practice session, and missed more than a month's worth of games.

"I found some things that I liked that I was doing well a couple of weeks before the injury," lamented Burgess.  "It was tough sitting there when they wouldn't let me play."

He struggled to get his swing back in June, but then had another torrid July, batting .305 and driving in 27 runs.  Burgess led the Oaks with 17 bombs despite playing in only 90 games.  His rate of a homer in just fewer than every 20 at bats ranked fifth in the California League after he finished second in that category in 2006.

Yr Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG
04 Yaki 177 20 36 7 0 6 27 0 0 14 62 .203 .291 .345
05 Yaki 119 21 40 10 2 3 18 1 0 14 34 .336 .432 .529
06 Lanc 432 74 115 15 2 26 85 8 8 39 132 .266 .362 .491
07 Vis 331 56 86 19 4 17 56 5 2 33 103 .260 .353 .495
Minors 1059 171 277 51 8 52 186 14 10 100 331 .262 .355 .472

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Batting and Power:  The power is extreme, and it comes naturally with his strength.

"When I try to hit home runs, that's when the numbers go down," confided Burgess.   "It's something the organization has put upon me to do, but the day that I try to do it, I don't do it, and the day that I just stay up the middle and swing easy is the day that it happens." 

Of course, one can't help but look at his strikeout totals and wonder how often he actually follows this tenet.  The organization would love for Burgess to cut down on those strikeouts and walk more often, but also acknowledges that whiffs are going to be a part of almost every power hitter's game.

"I'm always going to have a lot of strikeouts being a power guy - that's just the nature of the game.  But knowing which situations to put your A-swing on and knowing which situations to just put the ball in play is just something that's going to come as I have more at bats."

Looking at the stat line above, you might notice the low batting average and low walk totals, but that the slugger's career on-base percentage is a respectable .355.  That comes from getting hit with pitches a ridiculous 45 times over the past two seasons alone.

"I've always stood right on top of the plate," Burgess began.  "It's just where I've felt comfortable.  Even though I've started backing off the plate a little bit, I'm still getting hit by pitches.  I think it's that guys are trying to challenge me and show me that they can pitch that pitch in, because I don't really get a lot of pitches in for strikes being a power hitter.  I also think at this level, you've got guys who don't have as much control over their stuff.  So I think that total will go down as guys get a little more control, but I don't really go up there thinking I'm going to wear a pitch or go up there thinking I'm going to jump out of the way."

Base Running and Speed:  The Diamondbacks have enough to worry about injury-wise with all the plunkings; They certainly don't need someone of Brandon's size sliding all over the diamond.  He does possess good speed for his size, however, which tempts him to try a few more steals than he really should each year.  Expect those stolen base attempts to become rarer and rarer as Burgess ages.

Defense:  Burgess is steadily improving at third base, with his fielding percentage there improving from .876 in 2006 to .901 last year.  That may not seem like much, but remember, Burgess has only played 130 career games at the hot corner.  BB also spent a lot of time working there during the 2006 fall Instructional League, but he's still a relative neophyte at the position.

"I feel like I've made some huge strides," said Burgess.  "[Visalia manager Hector de la Cruz] spent a lot of his career playing third base.  He knows a lot about the third base position.  It's been great working with him every day, and I feel a lot more confident in the field than I was last year."

His arm is ahead of the rest of his defense at this point.  Burgess still needs to work on his lateral range and his footwork as he gets in position to throw.     

Major League Clone: Russell Branyan

Prediction: Many outside scouts do not consider Burgess a top prospect because he has repeated the same level twice in his career.  He also skipped South Bend, however, and he only missed making Double-A last year because of the injury and because he needed work at third base every day.  Objectively speaking, he could develop 30-homer power in the majors, but not necessarily do well enough at the other aspects of the game to enjoy a long major league career.             

ETA:  Burgess will be the regular third baseman for the Mobile BayBears this year.  He is blocked in Triple-A by Jaime D'Antona and in the majors by Mark Reynolds.  So while Burgess should be ready for the show by 2010, there still may not be a job for him at that time.  

Send questions or comments for Keith Glab to future_backs@yahoo.com

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