- Full name Christopher Allen Burke
- Born 03/11/1980 in Louisville, KY
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Tennessee
- Debut 07/04/2004
Drafted in the 1st round (10th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2001 (signed for $2,125,000).
View Draft ReportA second baseman who focused on reaching base and running wild in his first two seasons at Tennessee, Burke remade himself and emerged as the 2001 Southeastern Conference player of the year. He added loft to his swing and showed home run power, and he moved to shortstop when Stevie Daniel faltered defensively. Though he faces a move back to second as a pro because he lacks the arm for short, Burke still could go late in the first round to a team such as the Diamondbacks or Athletics. His on-base ability and speed suit him perfectly for the leadoff role. There's some question whether his new swing will work with wood. Using his old approach, he had no problem with wood last summer with Team USA. His .376 average was second on the team, trailing only Mark Teixeira, who hit .385.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Astros have finished below .500 in just one of their last 13 seasons, so they usually have drafted toward the bottom of the first round. The lone exception came in 2001, when they owned the 10th pick, their highest since they took Phil Nevin No. 1 overall in 1992. Houston used that choice on Burke, who was coming off an All-America junior year at Tennessee. The Southeastern Conference player of the year, he led NCAA Division I in runs (105), hits (118) and total bases (221) and was the only player to rank in the top 10 in hitting (.435), homers (20) and steals (49). As a middle infielder who was a catalyst atop the lineup, Burke drew immediate comparisons to Craig Biggio after the Astros took him. He had a rocky first full season in 2002, when he was assigned to Double-A Round Rock because Houston lacked a high Class A affiliate, but has regrouped since. He returned there to win Texas League all-star honors in 2003 and earned similar acclaim in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2004. He made his major league debut last year and also got to play in the Futures Game in Houston. Though the Astros initially believed Burke could play shortstop, last season marked the first time he played solely at second base. The lesser defensive responsibilities allowed him to relax, and he improved in all phases of the game. Burke is Biggio's logical successor as Houston's leadoff hitter, though he'll probably bat No. 2 behind him this year. He does a fine job of getting on base, both via hitting for average and drawing walks, and he's a basestealing threat once he gets there. He handles the bat very well, making consistent contact and showing surprising gap power for his size and position. One scout describes him as Mark Loretta with better speed. Burke made better use of his wheels in 2004, improving his leads, jumps and ability to read pitches. Defensively, he has good range to both sides. He made significant strides turning the double play last season. Managers rated Burke the best defender at his position in the PCL, where he led second basemen in every positive fielding category. His work ethic and professionalism also earn high marks. Burke has too much power for his own good at times. He'll occasionally have to be reminded that he's better off letting extra-base hits come naturally. His arm is his weakest tool, though at second base it's not the liability it was at shortstop. He has smoothed out most of the rough edges, but his second-base play needs a little more cleaning up. If the Athletics had been willing to pick up Jeff Kent's salary for the final six weeks of 2004, he would have been traded and Burke would have started for the Astros last August. Now that Kent has signed with the Dodgers, Burke is ready to take over. Likening him to a possible Hall of Famer is unfair, but Burke does resemble a young Biggio.
Forced to Double-A before he was ready because the Astros didn't have a high Class A affiliate in 2002, Burke floundered. His struggles convinced him that what worked in college wasn't going to cut it in the pros, and he made a successful return to Round Rock in 2003, earning Texas League all-star honors. He started for Team USA at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama. Burke is ideally suited for the No. 2 spot in a lineup. He gets on base, handles the bat well, has gap power and the speed and instincts to steal bases. He has the quickness and athleticism to be a good second baseman. Burke sometimes has too much power for his own good and must realize hitting homers isn't his game. He needs to take more grounders at second base, so he can improve his ability to read and charge balls. He has played a fair amount of shortstop as a pro but lacks the arm for the position. Unless Burke flops in Triple-A, he'll be Houston's starting second baseman in 2005. Buying Jeff Kent out for $700,000 will be more palatable to the Astros than paying him a $9 million salary.
Burke seemed ready for Double-A. The Southeastern Conference player of the year and the 10th overall pick in 2001, he went straight to low Class A and hit .300 in his pro debut. But he struggled at Round Rock throughout last year and regressed in most areas. Burke has the tools and makeup to be the leadoff hitter Houston needs. His bat and speed are above-average. Though he messed up his approach trying to adapt to the Texas League, he did a better job of using the whole field, bunting and learning to relax in instructional league. He covers a lot of ground at either second base or shortstop. To bat first in the lineup, Burke will have to draw more walks. His stolen-base instincts were disappointing during the season but looked better in instructional league. His arm isn't quite enough for shortstop, and even at second base he sometimes has trouble throwing quickly or from odd angles. In a perfect world, Burke would have started 2002 in high Class A, but the Astros didn't have an affiliate there. He'll probably repeat Double-A at the beginning of this year and make his big league debut toward the end of 2004.
Burke broke several of Todd Helton's records at Tennessee, and he's one of six players in Southeastern Conference history to hit .400 in his career. The 2001 SEC player of the year, he signed for $2.125 million, breaking the club bonus record by $875,000. Houston scouting director David Lakey compared Burke to Craig Biggio on draft day. Burke has plenty of leadoff skills, gap power and stolen-base speed and aptitude. The Astros now downplay Biggio comparisons because they believe Burke can play shortstop, which some scouts had questioned. His arm is strong and accurate, and his instincts, hands and feet are all fine. Burke has no glaring flaws. He could walk a little more if he's going to bat at the top of the order, but he really had no difficulty jumping right into pro ball at low Class A Michigan. Burke has a good chance of going to Double-A for his first full season. He may play second base, but only to give Tommy Whiteman some time at shortstop. The only way Burke won't be Houston's shortstop of the future is if defensive whiz Adam Everett jump-starts his bat and pushes Burke to second.
Minor League Top Prospects
After the Astros took Burke 10th overall in the 2001 draft, they immediately tried to dispel the notion that he would be the next Craig Biggio. While it's far too early to say Burke will become a deserving Hall of Fame candidate, his resemblance to a young Biggio is uncanny. For the first time in his career, Burke didn't dabble with playing shortstop in 2004. He mentally accepted that he was a second baseman, relaxed and took off with the bat. He's a top-of-the-order catalyst with surprising pop and basestealing ability. The best defensive second baseman in the PCL, Burke has good range to both sides and his arm fits better at that position. He needs to polish his ability to turn the double play.
Burke was a bright spot on an otherwise dreadful Round Rock team that went 46-94--42 1/2 games worse than San Antonio. He needed to bounce back after a disappointing 2002 season in Round Rock, necessitated because the Astros didn't have a high Class A affiliate at the time. Burke looked more like a first-round pick this season, finishing among the league leaders in several offensive categories. While Burke played about a third of the season at shortstop, in the long term he's regarded as a second baseman, where his arm is a better fit. He's a pesky player, bunting when need be and putting the ball in play. He walked as much as he struck out and showed good leadoff skills. "He will be a good, fundamentally sound, solid second baseman," Brundage said. "His tools don't stand out and there's nothing he does that wows you, but he's astute and he understands and likes the game."
Burke went 10th overall in the June draft despite questions as to whether he has the arm for shortstop. MWL managers certainly thought he did, noting his quick release and ability to make plays from the hole. Regardless of whether he moves back to second base, where he played his first two years in college, Burke is projected as the eventual successor to Craig Biggio as Houston's leadoff man. Speed is Burke's best tool, and he also can hit for average and gap power. He showed good plate coverage and the ability to make adjustments in his pro debut.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Houston Astros in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive 2B in the Pacific Coast League in 2004