If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few years, you’ll know that I’ve been high on Andy Burns. I was very pleased to find out that his hard work has been rewarded by a call to The Show, as the Blue Jays announced that his contract was purchased from Buffalo and Ryan Tepera was being sent back to Triple-A.
The @BlueJays have selected the contract of UTL Andy Burns from Buffalo (AAA). RHP Ryan Tepera has been optioned to @BuffaloBisons.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 6, 2016
I’ve seen a fair bit of Burns over the past three seasons, seeing him for the first time shortly after his call up to New Hampshire in July of 2013. He had been dominating in Advanced-A Dunedin (.327/.383/.524) and flashed tremendous leather at third base, making tremendous plays despite struggling a bit with the bat. He made some mechanical adjustments with the help of the coaching staff and finished off with a solid .253/.309/.419 line in his first exposure to Double-A ball.
I saw Burns again in New Hampshire the following year and he was one of the Fisher Cats’ best power hitters, hitting 15 home runs over the full season in Manchester. I saw him able to punish pitchers’ mistakes and hit breaking balls. Despite the excellent hitting, I felt that he had regressed in the field, mostly because it didn’t seem like he was fully mentally engaged at all times.
In 2015, Burns played most of the season for Buffalo putting up a solid, but slightly regressive .293/.351/.372 slash line, only hitting 26 doubles and four home runs. He appeared to be using a much wider stance at the plate but was trading off power for more contact. This season, I’ve seen a reduced leg kick back in Burns’s stance and he’s started to hit for more power than he did last year, popping nine doubles and two home runs already in just 27 games with the Bisons.
Another benefit that Burns offers is that he has become a true utility player, playing every position but pitcher, catcher and center field in 2015 with Buffalo. Once a shortstop, Burns adjusted to third base, playing excellent defense there and then moved to second. He’s also gained time at first, left field and right field and offers the Blue Jays the type of player they haven’t had since Steve Tolleson.
Burns will likely be a late-inning defensive replacement and has the ability to spell Ryan Goins against left-handed pitchers. Burns, a righty, can play everywhere on the infield and even go in as a late-inning replacement for Michael Saunders if the Jays want to match up with a right-handed hitter (although, the way Ezequiel Carrera is hitting right now, I can’t see why John Gibbons would do that).
Talking to Brent Cardy and recording a podcast with him last night, I mentioned that if Burns keeps doing what he’s been doing, there’s no way that they’ll be able to keep him off the 40-man roster at the end of the year. It seems that the Blue Jays, with a couple of spots on the roster open, agreed and have decided to get Burns on the 40-man sooner rather than later.
How long will he stay in Toronto? That’s a very good question. With Devon Travis on the comeback trail, he might only last until Travis returns, or may not last that long if he doesn’t adjust quickly to big league pitching. But he could stick around longer if he shows that he can offer the Jays offensive upside in addition to defensive stability.
Congrats to Andy Burns and his family, particularly, his grandparents who are his biggest fans and whom I’ve met on a couple of occasions.
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