Jake Burger’s development has been dealt another blow.
The White Sox first-round pick in last year’s draft re-tore his Achilles tendon while walking in his backyard, general manager Rick Hahn announced Wednesday. This coming months after Burger initially suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while running to first base during a Cactus League game in spring training.
The initial news a few months back was bad enough for a young player who was climbing the prospect rankings and looking like a bigger and bigger part of the White Sox rebuilding effort. Burger’s development was already going to be impacted greatly, as he was ruled out for the remainder of the 2018 season. But now, as Hahn said, Burger’s recovery is back to square one, knocking him out 12 months from Tuesday, when he had his surgery.
“Unfortunately for Jake, we are now back to square one,” Hahn said. “The prognosis remains positive once this is fully healed. We expect him to have no restrictions in the future with regards to his baseball career. But as was the case after the first repair, the clock is now at 12 months, once again, until we expect to see him back in competitive games and playing regularly.
“Nothing the kid did wrong, no issue with anything along the path of his rehabilitation. Unfortunately this apparently happens in a relatively small percentage of Achilles repairs. Despite his hard work, Jake suffered this re-injury.”
Burger is ranked as White Sox No. 8 prospect and as one of the top 10 third base prospects in the game by MLB Pipeline. That preseason vault into the organization’s top 10 had fans as excited about Burger as they are about guys like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford and Zack Collins and got Burger’s name penciled into a few more of those future lineup projections.
But while Hahn reported that Burger is expected to make a full recovery, there is plenty of mystery surrounding his timeline to reach the major leagues now.
Burger earned his first-round status with a .328/.443/.648 slash line and 22 homers in his final collegiate season at Missouri State. He then slashed .271/.335/.409 with four homers in 200 plate appearances with Class A Kannapolis last season.
But will this year-plus delay in getting to his first full professional season mean he’ll arrive on the South Side well after the rebuild reaches its apex? If guys like Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Jimenez, Robert, Micker Adolfo and Collins are ready to form a contending lineup at the major league level, will the White Sox act and fill a hole at third base before Burger is ready? And would a major free-agent signing that fans desire — be it Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado or someone else — mean Burger’s path to the bigs is blocked? What does this mean for Burger’s future at third base after suffering a pair of injuries that could cut down on his ability to move around at the hot corner that the White Sox front office has talked about so glowingly? Will he be forced to play a different position?
Much like most of the other aspects of the rebuild, time will give us answers to those questions. Right now, this is just a bout of real bad news for a young player with a bright future.
“The expectation is there’s to be no long-term effect on his baseball career,” Hahn said. “It’s just a matter of having lost the last 10 weeks of his rehabilitation and having to start over.”