The White Sox spent first-round picks on Zack Burdi and Jake Burger in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both guys have been dogged by injuries, and the news didn't get any better Friday.
Burdi won't pitch for the rest of the season, his recovery from Tommy John surgery yielding now to a torn tendon in his knee. Burger, meanwhile, is still dealing with a setback in his recovery from a pair of Achilles tears in 2018, a bruised heel on the same foot that has limited him to the point where he's not participating in baseball activities. Burger might not be back on the field until the fall, general manager Rick Hahn said.
It's a pair of incredibly tough blows for two players who carry first-round expectations of being difference-makers in the franchise's ongoing rebuilding process. Burdi was eyed by many fans and onlookers as the team's closer of the future. The power-hitting Burger was hoped to be a middle-of-the-order bat for the next contending White Sox team. Obviously neither player can be written off at this point, but even more injury woes and even more missed developmental time throws what kind of impact they'll have, and when, into question.
After 27 appearances with Triple-A Charlotte in 2017, Burdi was shut down in June and had Tommy John surgery, which wiped out all but a handful of rookie league innings in 2018. He didn't pitch much during the Arizona Fall League before being shut down, though Hahn said at the time that was nothing to worry about. This season, he split time with Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and the numbers were not good: a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings of work. Now he won't pitch again until 2020.
"Zack Burdi, while doing a pregame drill in Birmingham a few weeks ago, actually within the last 10 days, felt kind of a change in his knee," Hahn said of the Downers Grove native's latest injury. "After an examination it was disclosed that he has a torn ligament by his patella, which needs to be repaired. That will be sometime in early July, and Zack will be out for the remainder of the season."
Burger was the No. 11 pick of the 2017 draft and hasn't played in many games since joining the White Sox organization. He slashed .271/.335/.409 with four homers in 49 games with Class A Kannapolis. In spring 2018, he tore his Achilles, then tore the same Achilles not long after, extending his recovery time. And though there was optimism surrounding his return this season, his bruised heel has been enough of a setback to keep him out of action and away from baseball activities at the moment. He likely won't appear with a full-season affiliate in 2019.
"Jake Burger is also progressing, albeit slowly, from his bruised left heel, the same leg that had the Achilles issue," Hahn said. "He is doing water-agility drills right now but has yet to resume baseball activity on the field. Don't have a timeline on Jake's return to action, but hopefully he's able to join the Arizona club before that season ends and if not, we'll see Jake hopefully fully healthy in instructionals (which typically take place after the end of the minor league regular season)."
There have been a bunch of positives here in 2019 that have made it seem like the White Sox contention window could open as soon as the 2020 season, and even with Friday's injury news, that still seems realistic. But for these two first-round picks, specifically, it's becoming increasingly difficult to project out what roles they'll play as that window begins to open. That was the case already, and both players dealing with new injuries clouds that picture even more.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.