Alec Burleson Quickly Hits His Way To Double-A

The abrupt ending to the college season, the hasty and abbreviated draft and the lack of minor league competition had the Cardinals favoring patience over promotion at the start of the 2021 season.

In most cases.

Alec Burleson outplayed the plan, catapulting through two levels in the first two months of the season, and he may continue climbing.

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.

To start his pro career, Burleson stormed to a .286/.367/.595 slash line with four homers in his first 11 games at High-A Peoria. That opened a swift promotion to Double-A Springfield, where he hit .276/.336/.459 in his first 24 games.

The 22-year-old outfielder with a steady, balanced swing from the left side and already shown what Cardinals scouts bet they’d see if he focused solely on hitting.

A second-round pick out of East Carolina in 2020, Burleson was one of the top two-way players in college baseball. The lefthander struck out 22 in 23.1 innings, and in his second start of 2020 he allowed two hits in eight innings while striking out seven versus Georgia Southern.

He played three field positions for ECU—first base, left field, right field—with athleticism to handle the outfield as game speed increases. The Cardinals agreed that they saw some Matt Adams at the plate—and that Burleson’s power would rise if he focused on hitting exclusively.

“Hit tool,” Mozeliak said. “That’s what our scouts really liked about him. They believed he would hit, and they were right.”

The Cardinals have looked to augment their depth of lefthanded hitters alongside top prospects Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker, and they’ve also sought a rising hitter for the upper levels.

Burleson has forced his way into that mix, complete with the versatility to play the corner outfield spots and first. He will go as high as the bat takes him—and evidently as fast.


— As part of a power binge that included seven homers in five days and five in two games, Nolan Gorman became the first player for the current Double-A Springfield Cardinals franchise to hit three home runs in a game. Through his first 35 games, he had hit .305/.376/.546 with 10 homers.

Matthew Liberatore, who started Team USA’s clincher for an Olympic bid at the June qualifier, returned to Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals began wrestling with the decision to permit the lefthander to compete in the Tokyo games this summer. Injuries in the majors and upper affiliates thinned the Cardinals’ pitching depth, leaving them scrambling for additions and calculating how to be without Liberatore for a month in the middle of the season.

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