Our next prospect had a breakout season in 2013, which helped him climb all the way up to number 14 after he was left off last year’s top 30. A sleeper prospect no longer, Andy Burns made one of the toughest jumps in baseball going from High Single-A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire and capped off his season by earning Player of the Week honours in the Arizona Fall League.
Name: Andy Burns
Date of Birth: 8/7/1990 (23)
Acquired: 11th round of 2011 draft ($250,000)
High School: Rocky Mountain HS (Fort Collins, CO)
College: University of Arizona (transferred from University of Kentucky)
Height/Weight: 6’2″/190 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- 2013 Florida State League All-Star
- Ranked 6th on Blue Jays From Away‘s Top 20 Prospects
- Ranked 20th on Minor League Ball‘s Top 20 Prospects
- 2013 Arizona Fall League Player of the Week – Week 4
Stats and Analysis:
In 2012, Burns posted a .248/.351/.464 triple slash with the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts before an early July injury derailed what was an otherwise productive season. Despite the missed time, he showed promise as a 21-year-old after barely playing in 2011. In his first crack at full season ball he was solid with a .369 wOBA and 129 wRC+ but the knock was that his strikeout rate of 23% was too high and he would need to start making better contact going forward.
Burns answered the bell in 2013 and his transformation was impressive to say the least. He moved up to the far less hitter-friendly Florida State League and didn’t miss a beat, batting .327/.383/.524 with a very impressive .407 wOBA and 156 wRC+. His walk rate dropped slightly but so did his strikeouts, and more balls in play led to him putting up much better numbers. He was also hitting the ball out of the park and had 8 home runs before his stellar play earned a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire in June.
The former Wildcat started off slowly for the Fisher Cats but it should be noted the jump from High-A to Double-A is not for the faint of heart. Some of the best pitching prospects in baseball can be found at that level. His first month was an adjustment but he finished the season on a high note batting .311/.363/.422 with 9 walks and 15 strikeouts over his last 102 plate appearances.
Defensively he was moved off short to third base and showed flashes of brilliance at the hot corner. His fielding percentage wasn’t great but I don’t think was evident of his ability as an infielder. Baseball America named him the best defensive third baseman in the Florida State League in 2013.
Burns was then shipped out to the Arizona Fall League to face what was an unusually strong group of opposing pitchers. He found himself taking reps at first base and in the outfield for the first time and despite being up and down throughout the event finished with a very productive .312/.402/.403 triple slash and was awarded Player of the Week during week four.
Video Credit: Mike Ashmore
At approach, Burns bends his knees and has an open stance. Comparing video from last year to this year, he appears to have quieted down his footwork. He has a bit of a double toe-tap, which ideally should be cleaned up, but he’s starting much more square to the batter. It’s a minor change but could be one of the factors that has helped him cut down on the whiffs. He’s also using less bat waggle, which is another positive since less moving parts usually leads to better bat control. He doesn’t get cheated early in the count but has the ability to tone down his swing with two strikes for better contact. His bat speed is good but his swing path is naturally a little long.
There isn’t one of Burns’ skills that really pops out at you but overall he has a good combination of tools and instincts, which show the makings of a solid baseball player. His hit tool would probably be considered average and he showed good pop this year, which gives promise that his power grade will reach that level as well. His arm strength is solid average and he has above average range at third base. He could be a 20-20 threat at the MLB level and his speed is a nice complement to his gap power.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Burns profiles as a super-utility type player with his ceiling likely as an everyday second baseman. The Blue Jays have loaded up with utility infielders this off-season, which makes me believe Burns will start the year at Double-A for some more seasoning. If he continues to impress a call-up to Buffalo should be in the cards with maybe even a promotion to the MLB Blue Jays in September. That’s probably a bit optimistic and 2015 is likely a more realistic ETA.
Burns might not possess raw, superstar-like ability but his already solid palette of skills means he holds a lower risk than most of the Blue Jays’ prospects. He’s probably destined as a career back-up but might also stick around for 10-15 years in a utility role, which could end up being a far better run than all but the most elite of young players.