Billy Burns has been turning some heads this spring, and it’s not because of his speed. Burns has been seeing some extra playing time in Arizona due to the injuries that have ravaged the Oakland outfield, and he’s making the most of his opportunity. While a healthy A’s outfield will consist of Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld, with Ben Zobrist and Mark Canha on a fill-in basis, with injuries to Reddick and Crisp keeping them out of the lineup, Burns has a shot at making the opening day team.
Thus far, Billy Burns is 13-for-31 (.419) this spring, and has an on-base percentage of .471. Add in three stolen bases, three triples and just two strikeouts, and it’s possible Burns has turned a corner this March. Of course, the .419 batting average is due to his new goatee which makes him look like Evil Billy Burns.
According to Baseball-Reference, the quality of pitcher Burns has been facing this spring is a 7.6, which works out to Double-A level pitchers. While this isn’t encouraging news, Burns hit just .250 in Midland last season in 91 games, so there appears to be some improvement being made. While the spring numbers are in a small sample size, his regression could be to a .280 mark or so, which is still solid improvement.
Whether or not Burns makes the team out of camp will depend on injuries, but that’s not breaking news. Reddick’s timetable is up in the air (possibly opening day) at the moment, and that could be enough to push Burns through. If Reddick winds up being healthy for the start of the season, there is another way he could sneak onto the 25-man roster, however.
With Zobrist in the fold that opens up the roster completely, so that the best players, regardless of position, make the team. Luckily for Billy Burns, the outfield appears to be a weak spot for the A’s this season, so the improvements he’s shown in the early going could play well in Oakland.
If for some reason you’re unaware, Billy Burns is fast. With the Oakland offense lacking the power they’ve possessed in recent years, there will be more of an emphasis on manufacturing runs. While Burns may make the squad as a precautionary measure, his speed will definitely get him into games. Add in the fact that he’s a switch-hitter, and according to Mike Aldrete in Susan Slusser’s Drumbeat from yesterday morning, “Burns appears as if he can hit the ball down both lines from both sides.”
Slusser went on to speculate that the 25th spot could come down to Burns and Rule-5 pick Canha. If this is indeed the case, Burns will likely see his season start in Nashville. With Canha’s Rule-5 status, he has to stay on the 25-man roster all season, or be offered back to his original team. With Canha being able to play left field, third and first, the likelihood of him at least getting a shot at the big league level is high.
At the moment, Canha is hitting .207 with two home runs and eleven strikeouts while facing the exact same quality of pitcher as Burns.
The big question as we approach opening day will be whether the team will focus on generating more power, or if they will attempt to manufacture runs. The strategy they choose will dictate which player wins out.