It’s so great to finally have the Minor League Baseball season back and get to see some of the newest St. Louis Cardinal prospects at work. One of my obsessions so far is a guy the Cardinals selected out of East Carolina University in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft, and that is Alec Burleson.
In a world where former Cardinal outfielders seem to be all the rage, it’s good to see the team have a prospect that can make some noise with the bat. The 22-year-old slugger was given the assignment of High-A Peoria and in the small sample size of games thus far there is plenty to like.
Through his first six games Burleson is slashing .350/.480/.650 with a pair of homeruns. He also has identical walk and strikeout percentages at 20. Small sample sizes are really the best.
There are some impressive little tidbits from those first couple of games. Among them, there are only two of those games where Burleson didn’t draw a walk. Of course, the highlight is the back to back nights where Burleson hit a homerun.
Especially where small sample sizes are involved, getting eyes on video is even more important. Fair warning, he’s a fun hitter.
The Video Room
Those who know me know I have a strong affinity for ECU hitters because they are just good at the plate. They have a knack for putting together professional at bats. There’s not much chasing, they show the ability to read spin, and they have good feel for barrel. That is as true with fellow ECU obsession in the Tigers organization Bryant Packard as it is with Burleson. They can just flat out hit.
Even though Burleson made noise with his power, that isn’t necessarily his loudest tool. With that being said, here’s his first professional homerun
Look at the location of the pitch. Burleson crushed an 1-0 mistake to his pull side. It was up in the zone, but he just did a good job getting the barrel to the pitch and driving it out of the park.
Here’s what I like most about Burleson. He isn’t pull happy and his barrel plays around the zone. You can see here that he takes a pitch even more up the ladder and fights off a 2-2 pitch for an RBI single. Oh, and he takes it the other way.
Burleson shows all the qualities of a good hit tool at the plate. From being able to cover it and find the barrel to knowing the zone and drawing walks. He spits on breaking balls and can crush fastballs. Even better, he’s not an easy out. Burleson will foul pitches off and extend at bats with two strikes on him.
There is another side to the strike zone and walks coin, however. Burleson is ultra patient, not passive which is an important distinction, but he’s patient. That can put him in bad counts at the plate. It can be seen here where he found himself in a bad count and had to try and fight, but made the wrong read and struck out. That will happen, it wouldn’t be surprising if the 20 percent small sample size was accurate to a larger sample.
Raving about his hit tool is one thing. But in the game that the video up to this point is from only shows him making contact on high pitches, which hardly sounds like his bat can cover the zone. Well, look no further than the next day where he pokes a single on a pitch down in the zone.
For good measure, just to push the point across, as his career goes I think it’s much more likely we see a solid hitter that can take advantage of mistakes and drive them out of the park rather than a massive power hitter. Either way, here’s another single, this one up the middle.
The last swing is his other homerun. He got yet another mistake early in the count and he didn’t miss it. Burleson was able to capitalize and knock it over the fence for his second homerun in as many days.
Lessons Learned In The Video Room
These videos are swing examples from just two of the six games he’s played in at the time of writing this. However the consistencies are what tell the tale in these small sample sizes. The patience, the strike zone recognition, and the ability to find the barrel all around the zone are really standout abilities for Burleson.
Let me break that broken record sound. The video shows his power is mostly pull side at this point, at least his over the fence power. If he can get around on those mistakes up in the zone, then he will hit those long balls. With his fringe power he is more likely to be a gap power type of hitter. Don’t be discouraged that Burleson hasn’t found one yet because those singles will eventually find gaps and become extra bases. It’s in there.
It’s also pretty clear that his general approach is to think middle-away. The homeruns came on pitches up in the zone in 1-0 and 3-2 counts. Other than that Burleson is comfortable just taking the pitch back up the middle or punching it into the opposite field.
His patient approach may inflate his strikeout numbers higher than it seems like they should be. This is the game hitters play to draw walks. Maybe more aggression would drop his strikeout numbers, but they would also drop his walk numbers. I’ll take the strikeouts. Burleson is patient, but he’s not passive. He’ll attack the ball early in the count if he gets his pitch, he’s not sitting back and waiting to be in a corner before taking the bat off his shoulder. Time will tell, but the strikeout numbers should never be egregious.
Burleson is a fun hitter. He has been to start his professional career and he’s showing the intangibles to continue that trend. As he plays more games, maybe some of what I’m seeing changes. So this won’t be the last time I pull film on him. As it stands now though, the Cardinals drafted a guy who is very fun to dream on in a future lineup.