I have repeatedly promised to write about Luke Burch in depth. While my write up started as part of a scouting report, it grew so long that it seemed better to just make him the next person profiled in Fun With Stats.
He is not the traditional choice, if one can say such a thing about the third article in a series. Burch is not a top ten, or even top 50 player, in any stat category that I found. Yet the numbers are still strong, so he makes sense for this series.
It has been an interesting college path for Burch. He started out at division two Ashland and barely played as a freshman. He transferred to Kent right before the start of his sophomore year and sat out the year. I can’t recall seeing another player transfer up a level and play more in the higher division than they had in the lower division. He went from appearing in 25 games and having just 56 plate appearances to appearing in 26 game for Kent, but with 129 plate appearances.
This means that Burch is a red shirt senior for Kent who has been draft eligible since 2015, yet has never been drafted.
Burch became a starter in 2016, after appearing in about half of Kent’s games in 2015. Since his first day on campus, Burch has excelled for Kent. He has been one of the top hitters in the conference. From the first game I saw him in last year, Burch caught my eye. I wrote about him in that report, even though he was not even on my radar before the game. Burch has made good, hard contact, is a plus runner, and seemed to be involved in every scoring play for Kent.
Now for the stats perspective on Burch. He has been a .360 or better hitter every year at Kent. He combines this with BABIPs of .423 or better over three years. As I have mentioned before, BABIP in college can often be a great way to judge a player's ability, as a hitter, to make contact. Burch has one of the highest career college BABIPs I have ever seen. In this case, it's not just the numbers, but the numbers being something I can confirm with my eyes.
He doesn’t have much power, but has shown an ability to put the ball into the gaps and occasionally knock the ball out of the park. Once the ball goes into the gap, Burch is assured extra bases. He has plus to plus plus speed. At one game I attended, a scout had him down the line at 4.01.
For as analytical as I am, one of the biggest reasons I am a fan of Burch is that he always seems to come up big or get on base late in games. I can’t recall seeing a single game over the last two years where he didn’t do something that showed up in the box score. I saw two come from behind wins this year for Kent and, in both games, Burch was involved in either the winning or tying run for Kent. While I don’t believe in clutchness, I do believe in psychology. He is not a guy who were you have to worry about nerves or pressure.
He has played right field this year, but this is more because of his teammates than any issue with Burch. He could be an asset who can play all three spots in the outfield for a team.
Now for the negatives for Burch. The first is his age. Burch turned 23 this spring. In draft terms, he is ancient. The fact that he has been eligible for two years and not drafted will also be a sign to some that he is not worth a second look. While it isn’t something he can control, it will be used as a reason to pass on Burch. Next, for a player who isn’t a power bat, he has struck out 15% of the time, which is a high number. His walk rate is up this year, but there is some swing and miss, which could be something that gets exploited in pro ball. The last issue is that his conversion rate for stolen bases this year has been horrible. The MAC is not a haven for strong armed catchers or guys who throw 90, so a player with Burch’s speed should have no problem racking up stolen bases. When he is on base, opposing pitchers have heavily focused on him. A conversion rate of 56% doesn’t work in any league and does make one wonder about his ability to convert his speed on the base paths.
For me, Burch is a favorite senior sign candidate. I would try to get him in round nine or ten for a small bonus. The worst case scenario is you get a player with plus speed who can be a solid backup in the minors and move around as needed. Guys like Burch can last forever in the minors.