As was reported earlier today the A’s announced another wave of roster “cuts” (sending players in Major League camp to Minor League camp or their respective Minor League affiliate in the organization). One player who earned the chance to finish out Spring Training with the big league team was outfielder Billy Burns. Burns leads the team with 20 hits and 10 stolen bases this spring. This coming from a player who is playing in a new organization and learning how to switch-hit on the fly. He won’t start the year with the A’s, but that opportunity might be coming soon.
On Saturday I got to see Burns in person at Phoenix Municipal Stadium when the A’s took on the Seattle Mariners. One thing I can confirm that has been reported on consistently throughout February and March, Burns is fast. Really fast. As a comparison, on Sunday I got to see the Brewers play the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Reds top prospect and probable starting center fielder Billy Hamilton played the whole game. Many think he is the fastest player in baseball. While I did not have a stopwatch handy one thing is for sure. Burns is faster than Hamilton. It’s close, but Burns has the edge.
Once I realized Burns was faster than Hamilton I began to wonder something. Why is Burns not receiving the hype that Hamilton is? True Hamilton had an absurd amount of stolen bases in the Minor Leagues, but if we’re talking about what production we’ll see at the Major League level I don’t see how Burns doesn’t win that competition. The thing that will really separate Burns from Hamilton will be the tutelage of Rickey Henderson. Henderson can develop Burns into a stolen base machine.
Hamilton gets the press and it is well deserved especially considering he will start off the year with the Reds and the fact that the A’s do not garner much media attention on a national scale. However, Burns at some point in the near future will make an impact with the A’s. After coming over from the Washington Nationals for Jerry Blevins Burns has made a huge impact on the A’s and their front office. This might be the steal of the offseason if he can continue to develop into the speedy switch hitter the A’s hope he can be.
Burns will be in the A’s outfield for sometime once this group moves on (Coco Crisp, Yoenis Céspedes, Josh Reddick). He can play all outfield positions, has incredible speed, and can switch hit. The A’s hit a home run (pardon the phrase) when they landed Burns. Blevins will be missed, but no offense to him but left-handed relievers that fall into Blevins style can be had at a low cost. Switch-hitting outfielders with wheels are expensive. This was simply the right move for the A’s to make and if this Spring Training is any proof Burns will be a productive member of the A’s for a long time to come.