St. Louis Cardinals: 2020 draft pick Alec Burleson already promoted to AA

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 04: The game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on May 4, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on May 05, 2021. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 04: The game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on May 4, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on May 05, 2021. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals’ first college bat off the board in the 2020 draft, Alec Burleson, has already earned a promotion to AA Springfield.

The 2020 draft was a weird one for many reasons. First, the fact that it was only five rounds made every pick count for much more. Second, the picks were being made based on very little (or zero) playing time from the 2020 spring. And lastly, the St. Louis Cardinals had seven picks, giving them a unique opportunity to capitalize on the year’s crop of talent.

With their first three picks, the team went young and risky, drafting three high schoolers with high ceilings. To even out this risk, they went with a relatively safer fourth pick in outfielder Alec Burleson out of East Carolina. Burleson was “safe” because he was already 21 on draft day and had plenty of experience playing collegiately. While Burleson was a two-way player in college, he’s only played in the outfield so far.

Taking Burleson with the 70th pick was viewed as a little bit of a reach by some evaluators, but the team clearly saw something they liked. He’s a left-handed bat that shines because of his hit tool rather than power, something that isn’t common with a corner outfielder.

After a year without games for minor leaguers, the Cardinals assigned Burleson to High-A Peoria to start the year. It took Burleson only 11 games for the Cardinals to decide that placement wasn’t aggressive enough.

As you can see, Burleson had little trouble at Peoria and it really was the power that was surprising to see.

On top of his power swing at the plate, he was more than holding his own in the field. A promotion after just 11 games feels fast, but it is important to remember that he is already 22 and was only a half-year younger than the average player at High-A. He was dominating his competition and the Cardinals rarely shy away from promoting aggressively.

How Burleson performs at AA Springfield will be the true test for the outfielder, as success, there could lead to a quick shot to Busch Stadium. While the chances are low for that to happen in 2021, who knows what will happen.

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Burleson is already outplaying what most evaluators thought, it just depends on whether or not he can deal with the advanced competition in the next league up.