Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, containing detailed articles about a wide variety of players. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on third baseman Jake Burger.
- March 30—optioned to Triple-A Charlotte Knights
- April 5—recalled from Triple-A Charlotte Knights
- May 4—placed on the 10-day injured list (strained left oblique)
- May 11—sent on a rehab assignment to Charlotte Knights
- May 14—activated from the 10-day injured list
- August 1—Traded by Chicago White Sox to Miami Marlins for LHP Jake Eder
Overall season stats: .250/.309/.518/.828, 34 HR, 80 RBI and a 120 OPS+
Marlins stats: .303/.355/.505/.860 with 9 HR, 28 RBI and a 130 OPS+
After being held back by injuries, in 2023, Jake Burger finally looked like the player that the Chicago White Sox selected with the 11th pick of the 2017 MLB Draft. Slashing .214/.279/.527/.806 with 25 home runs, 52 RBIs and a 113 OPS+ through the end of July, Burger was a huge power threat, especially against left-handed pitching. That being said, he didn’t get on base much and struck out at high percentages. He was used as a designated hitter for a period of time after returning from his oblique injury, but otherwise found a home at third base.
The White Sox turned out to be one of MLB’s worst teams and it was no question that they would be sellers as the trade deadline approached. However, Burger wasn’t thought to be among their main trade chips because he still had many years of club control ahead of him.
Meanwhile, the Marlins found themselves in a position where they had a shot at the postseason. The offseason signing of Jean Segura to handle third base had gone horribly wrong and was holding back their offensive production. A few hours before the deadline arrived on August 1, they acquired Burger to take his job in exchange for Eder, one of their top prospects. Right after that, Miami sent Segura to Cleveland in the Josh Bell trade.
With the Marlins, Burger continued to build upon his breakout year. His strikeout rate dipped down and he was getting on base at a higher rate. He found a better balance between hitting for power and contact, leading all Marlins hitters with 1.1 fWAR during August and September.
With the White Sox, Burger was striking out at a 31.6% rate and walking at a 6.8% rate. Although his walk percentage went down even more to 4.6% after the trade, his strikeout percentage improvement to 21.7% more than made up for that. Burger also went from a .225 BABIP to a .354 BABIP (only Garrett Hampson had a higher mark among Marlins hitters during this period).
The ball just made a different sound off of Burger’s bat and his quality of contact stats demonstrate that. His 91.9 mph average exit velocity put him in 89th percentile among MLB qualifiers and about half of all his batted ball were hard-hit, per Baseball Savant. With the single below, Burger had the top exit velo for a Marlins player in 2023. He also had 12 of the top 20 exit velos despite spending just two months with the club.
Although the statistics claim that the 27-year-old struggled at third base, he didn’t look too bad from the eye test. Aside from a couple moments, he was able to hold down the position well.
Future with Marlins
A huge factor behind the Marlins’ acquisition of Burger was that he won’t be a free agent until after the 2028 season. He’s not even eligible for arbitration yet, so he will be an incredible value even if he regresses a bit from his end-of-season hot streak.
Burger needed to play third base because the Marlins had Jorge Soler and Josh Bell occupying DH and first base, respectively. Both of them have the opportunity to opt out of their contracts and test free agency. The Marlins’ internal options at third base include Jon Berti, Garrett Hampson and Jordan Groshans, but none of them project to be everyday starters, so the most likely outcome is that Burger spends a lot of time there again in 2024.
Burger emerged as a nice building block for the Marlins lineup. However, he’ll need some outside help from the new front office, especially if Soler and Bell both sign elsewhere.
Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish On First