KODAK, TN — The Tennessee Smokies were rolling Monday night. With Kris Bryant in town and the largest crowd the young Chicago Cubs had seen all season, the stars came out to shine. Left fielder Charcer Burks and second baseman Trent Giambrone, both with multi-hit games, really stood out.
Charcer Burks, LF
Burks is a bit of an enigma. The 23-year-old was the Cubs ninth-rounder in the 2013 MLB Draft out of high school in Texas. His past two seasons, 2016 in the Carolina League and 2017 in the Southern League, he started to show some serious pop potential, but that has quieted down this season thus far.
The right-handed hitting and throwing outfielder is listed at 6-0, 175 and that seems right, as he’s very compact in the box. He stands back, bat curled over his shoulder, knees pointed inward, with a very defined step before his bat quickly rips through the zone.
The Smokies leadoff hitter made loud contact Monday night. He grounded out sharply to third in his first at bat before lining a double to left and going the other way with a single in the fourth. He added on a leadoff walk, scoring on Kris Bryant’s welcome back home run.
Burks biggest nemesis seems to be the strikeout, as he is swing-and-missing at a career-worst 26 percent this season. That wasn’t the case at all on Monday, as he looked very comfortable in the box, with both pitchers he faced early on having some nice movement on their pitches (started Brandon Lawson a fastball with sinking action, and reliever Benton Moss with a nice breaker), so to say what he is uncomfortable with is tough to say. He has always walked at a very good rate, currently 12 percent of the time, a number he’s matched the past two seasons. Speed is one of Burks assets, and he turned that fourth inning single into a double with a stolen base that he had little trouble pulling off.
It will be interesting to see if the newfound power starts to come back and if the mid-May injury had anything to do with it. If he can become the 10 to 15 home run, 20 stolen base threat he looked like the previous two seasons, Burks could have a nice role as a fourth outfielder.
Trent Giambrone, 2B
Giambrone continues to be a pleasant surprise for the Cubs. The 2016 25th-rounder out of Division II Delta State is showing nice power for the second base position as he steadily climbs the ladder.
The 24-year-old right-handed hitter and thrower has a little Dustin Pedroia in him. He stands at just 5-8, 175 and when he is in the box, he looks it. The Pedroia aspect is obviously in the height, but how his body seems to explode out of the box at the pitch as well.
One of the biggest takeaways with Giambrone is his versatility. He has played all over the outfield and infield, though his primary position is second base. He seems to have the speed, range and arm to play anywhere they need him, giving him a extra opportunity to rise to the big leagues as a super-utility player. Giambrone was able to drift to the outfield and get under pop-ups with ease and fielded everything hit his way with little effort. He blends his power well (a career-high 17 doubles, 14 home runs) with his speed. His career-best 21 stolen bases shows he can move on the bases, but he can also move down the line as well.
Giambrone had a three-home run game last week. Unfortunately that was not in the cards on Monday night, but he did go 2-for-4. He crushed a ground-rule double down the right-field line so he seems to be able to use all fields when he hits.
There is plenty to like about the Cubs’ prospect who is enjoying somewhat of a breakout season. Should he continue to do a little of everything well, at every position the Smokies ask him to, he should be Triple-A bound very soon.