Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Despite roster changes, Pelicans’ Burks staying hot in second half

Myrtle Beach’s Charcer Burkes gets a base hit during a game against the Carolina Mudcats earlier this week.
Myrtle Beach’s Charcer Burkes gets a base hit during a game against the Carolina Mudcats earlier this week. jlee@thesunnews

Outfielders Charcer Burks and Rashad Crawford were quite the dynamic duo.

After Burks was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft, he and Crawford immediately clicked and the two prospects have shared the same outfield each year since.

“He was one of the first people I met playing in pro ball and he was the one that kind of taught me the ropes – what to do, what not to do. We’ve been best friends ever since,” Burks said of Crawford, who was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round in 2012. “We’ve done pretty much everything together.”

Most recently, Burks and Crawford were heating up as the Nos. 1 and 2 batters, respectively, at the top of the Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ order as the duo reached base safely in all but three games during the month of July.

Then, in an instant, Crawford was packing his bags and on his way to join the Yankees’ organization after a July 25 trade between the Chicago Cubs and New York.

“It really hit me whenever he got traded. It was so unexpected, too,” Burks said. “I’m happy for him, but – at the same time – it kind of sucks. We’re like brothers.”

The Cubs sent Crawford and three other players – including fellow Pelican Gleyber Torres, the No. 26 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com – to the Yankees in exchange for flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman.

Burks, 21, is also close with the 19-year-old Torres, who he considers his ‘little brother.’

“It was the same with Gleyber; he’s been like my little brother. The same things that [Crawford] did for me is kind of what I tried to do for Gleyber,” Burks said. “We were all a close little family – ‘Shad, Gleyber and I. So, it’s definitely different.”

Without Crawford and Torres batting behind him, it appeared things may get tougher on Burks at the plate.

It really hit me whenever he got traded. It was so unexpected, too. I’m happy for him, but – at the same time – it kind of sucks. We’re like brothers.

Myrtle Beach’s Charcer Burks on seeing teammate and friend Rashad Crawford traded

But that hasn’t been the case.

Burks has a .313 batting average (5-for-16) with one home run, one triple, five RBIs and two runs in the four games since Crawford and Torres’ departure.

“He hasn’t missed a beat lately. He’s been playing really good,” Myrtle Beach manager Buddy Bailey said of Burks. “And since he’s been reaching base so much, he’s helping everyone else’s numbers go up as well.”

That includes newcomers Donnie Dewees – the Cubs’ No. 12 prospect, according to MLB.com – and Bryant Flete, who joined the Pelicans on July 26 to take the spots vacated by Crawford and Torres.

Dewees has a .333 batting average (5-for-15), a .600 slugging percentage and has driven in one run and scored two in four games with Myrtle Beach, while Flete is batting .538 (7-for-13) with three RBIs and four runs in four games.

“[The trade] opened up a spot for these guys to come in and try to succeed,” Burks said. “I have all the confidence in the world that the new guys are going to step up and play a key role in this lineup.”

Dewees and Flete also join in the pursuit of Myrtle Beach’s second consecutive Carolina League Mills Cup championship, which Burks said is a big motivator in his success.

“With it being the second half and us really pushing for wins and trying to make the playoffs, I’ve just been kind of thinking of the bigger picture and that’s winning a championship,” Burks said. “So, I’d say all my success from this second half has been from just trying to play for this team, trying to get on base for this team and do anything I can to win at the end.”

.291Burks’ batting average in the second half of the season

Burks batted just .211 with five home runs, 13 RBIs and 26 runs in 61 games during the first half, but has more than made up for it with his performance in the second half. He’s batting .291 with three home runs, 19 RBIs and 22 runs in 32 games since the Carolina League all-star break to raise his overall average to .243.

And even with Burks’ early struggles, Bailey always knew how valuable the outfielder was.

“Even earlier in the year when his batting average was down, his on-base percentage has always been good,” Bailey said of Burks, who owns a .358 on-base percentage. “Talking with the organization a couple of weeks ago, they asked if we could put him in the leadoff spot and he’s replied to that really well. He’s played everywhere in the outfield, he’s getting better at stealing bases and he’s a big asset to this team. This whole year has been a positive for him so far.”

Except having his friendships put to the test with the departure of Crawford and Torres.

But that won’t stop Burks from keeping his foot on the gas.

“I just take it day by day. Obviously, seeing how this game is, anything can happen at any given moment,” said Burks, an Austin, Texas native. “With that being said, I’m always thankful to come out here and play the game I love and that’s it. That’s all I focus on.”

Max McKinnon: 843-626-0302, @mmckinnonTSN

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