ST. LOUIS — All this talk about Juan Soto and how losing Dylan Carlson in the deal could destroy the crops in the St. Louis farm system for years to come, and fans are forgetting about somebody: Alec Burleson.
The 23-year-old Memphis Redbirds outfielder is absolutely annihilating opponent pitchers this season, collecting a .932 OPS (.800 is very good) and adding 18 home runs and 17 doubles in 337 at-bats. He has 112 hits in this 337 at-bats as well, which is very impressive. A hit machine who plays both corner outfield spots would be a commodity, if every other soul in Cardinal Nation wasn’t clamoring to get Soto and keep Carlson while doing it.
Let’s play the hypothetical game-something that is currently being overcooked due to Hot Stove deal-making reaching an all-time high today and tomorrow-and say the Cardinals do acquire the Washington Nationals and sacrifice Carlson and Jordan Walker as the centerpieces of a deal. (Please keep Masyn Winn if you can.) That may leave your OF a little thin for a short while, but you’d have Mr. Soto out there.
And you’d be able to promote and turn Burleson loose. The most incredible thing about his development isn’t even the fact that he’s a left-handed hitting (this just made the Cards front office blush) outfielder with genuine pop and a Brendan Donovan like knack to reach base. It’s how fast he is doing it.
Burleson was drafted in the second round of the 2020 Amateur MLB draft, and normally would be taking hacks at Springfield at the moment. But last season, he wasted little time in ascending from Class A Peoria all the way to the top level in Memphis. The immediate struggles there last season (.667 OPS in 45 games) disappeared this year. In a single season, he made the biggest of jumps and isn’t slowing down. The struggles only taught me that he knows how to make a quick adjustment.
So, it’s not the end of the world as we know it if Carlson leaves, Soto arrives and Burleson gets his ticket punched. He isn’t a flashy first round draft pick like the Cardinals current center fielder or a stud like Soto, but he’s more than deserving of a chance to show his skills. Or they can keep letting him waste away at Memphis.
If St. Louis isn’t going to acquire the right amount of pitching to outplay teams this year, they need to go extra hard on the offensive side of the game so they can outhit them. Burleson should fit into these plans by Sept. 1 at the very least. Whoever plays beside him is anyone’s guess over the next 29 hours.
Just don’t sleep on him, Cardinal Nation. Burleson has two home runs in his last three games, and has maintained a .900 or better OPS for the majority of this season. If the goal of the minors is to prepare these young guys for the bigs, I would say Mr. Burleson is close to being ready.
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