A ninth rounder in 2013 out of a high school in Richmond, Texas, Charcer Burks has been making steady progress on his road to the majors. Each year he has moved up a level and acquitted himself well, but this season he’s really broken out in Double-A. After a 1-for-3 game that included two walks and his seventh home run of the year, the spark plug of the Smokies offense raised his line to .308/.404/.466 at just a little past the midway point of the minor league season.
Coming into the season, Burks was viewed as a glove-first outfielder with speed to burn, allowing him to play all three positions. Just last season he won a Gold Glove for his work in left field at Myrtle Beach, and he has continued to be an asset patrolling left and center for the Smokies. With 10 steals, he’s on track for another 20-steal campaign, although his success rate is a paltry 55 percent at this point.
At the plate, Burks has a quick bat and good bat-to-ball skills that have yielded harder contact as compared to past years. His infield fly ball percentage has decreased more than 10 ticks from last season as he’s been hitting more line drives and ground balls. Possibly the biggest difference in Burks’ approach has been his willingness to drive the ball to the opposite field after being a little too pull-happy in the past.
He has always taken walks at an above-average rate, but this year he’s walking in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in only 16.7 percent. And if Burks can continue to drive the ball in the second half, he should reach double digit home runs for only the second time in his pro career.
After an unimpressive year at the plate with the Pelicans, Burks has been the standout hitter in the Cubs system in the first half. His stock has risen considerably, from a toolsy but strikeout/weak contact-prone hitter to one who works counts and drives the ball to all parts of the field. It’s also important to note that he’s done this all at Double-A, a level at which many prospects fail to adjust and that often serves as a litmus test for hitters.
If Burks can continue to cut down his weak contact and improve his instincts on the bases, the Cubs could be looking at their leadoff hitter of the future. Most likely, he fits in as an extra outfielder who can enter late in games on the basepaths or in the field. Look for him to be competing for a spot in the Cubs outfield towards the end of 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.