Burgess Just Keeps Hackin' Away

Michael Burgess is only in his second pro season, but he seems to have adjusted very well to life as a pro. The question now is, just how quickly will he move up the ladder?

For Michael Burgess, adjustments that he had to make to being a professional ballplayer came relatively easy. One of the biggest adjustments that a player has to make is from a metal bat to using a wood bat; not so for Burgess. His grandfather had him using a wood bat way back in middle school and it's something that he has always been comfortable with using at the plate.

Almost from the time that he hit the Gulf Coast League last season, Burgess started to hit and looked like a player in control. Eventually, the Nationals recognized that they had made a mistake in sending Burgess to the lowest level of the minors and moved him along to the New York - Penn League where he continued to hit and finished the season with a combined 11-42-.318 line in just 55 games in the two short-season leagues. This season, the Nationals knew what type of player they had on their hands and started Burgess in the South Atlantic League with the Hagerstown Suns.

The early going was admittedly a little rough for Burgess, who was hitting just .196 after two weeks of play and he had struck out 20 times in his first 15 games, including in six of his first ten at bats. From there though, things turned around and Burgess started pulling his average up and as June turned to July, he was hitting .265 at Hagerstown. While strikeouts are still an issue (he's struck out 99 times in 289 at bats) odds are that Burgess will improve on his ratios at the plate, because he generally has good plate discipline and just needs to get a little better at recognizing what pitch is coming toward him. Keep in mind too, that at age 19, Burgess is a little behind most players in the South Atlantic League in terms of experience. He's facing a lot of guys that came out of the college ranks and have much more developed pitches than what Burgess saw in high school or the lowest levels of the minors.

While most people want to focus on the power, Burgess has a couple of other tools that he uses as part of his arsenal. One is some speed; while he's not a proven base stealer, he's got enough speed to swipe a base here and there and he's also smart enough to know when he can run and when he can't. He's stolen five bases this season without being thrown out and has worked to improve his baserunning skills. His defense is also overlooked. Burgess has good natural instincts on how to get to a ball and how to make plays in the outfield. He generally gets a good jump on balls hit in the gap and has a strong arm that he used to gun down eight runners last season.

The Nationals made a rash of promotions lately and Burgess wasn't one of them. Odds are that he'll benefit most by spending the season in the South Atlantic League and then look to head to Potomac for the 2009 season. Because he is young, the Nationals don't need to rush his development and will be satisfied just to let him learn more about hitting this season and look to really start pushing his advancement next season, when it's possible that he could be at Double-A by the end of the season. For now, patience is the key word.

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