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Athletics 2014 season review: Billy Burns makes his MLB debut

By avoiding the friction that comes with touching the ground, Burns moves even faster.
By avoiding the friction that comes with touching the ground, Burns moves even faster.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Next on our list is No. 18, which was worn by Alberto Callaspo at the beginning of the season. However, we already covered Callaspo under his new jersey No. 7, and while it's tempting to write another 1,000 words about how awful he was I will resist and move on. Here is No. 19, Billy Burns, who only made a brief MLB debut before spending September sitting on the bench.

Player profile

Name: Billy Burns, aka Burns Baby Burns
Position: CF
Stats: 1-for-6 (.167), 3 SB*, 4 runs scored, 1 error**
WAR: negative-0.1 bWAR, negative-0.2 fWAR
How he got here: Acquired from Washington Nationals prior to 2014
2014 Salary: Change found in clubhouse couch; also free coffee
2015 Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control
2015 Salary: Petty cash from the drawer

* 3-for-4 on stolen base attempts
** 1 error on 3 chances in 8 innings in CF

Season summary

Burns was acquired from the Nats during the offseason in exchange for Jerry Blevins. The lefty Blevins was replaced by Fernando Abad, acquired from the Nats in a different deal. The A's got Burns in exchange for "downgrading" from Blevins to Abad, but then Abad ended up having a way better year than Blevins did. So, hey, free prospect!

Burns is an interesting player. He is on the short list with Billy Hamilton and a few others for fastest player in baseball, and he uses that speed to steal bases at high efficiency -- 54-for-60 in the minors last year, good for 90% success. He's also considered an excellent fielder. The only question is whether he'll ever be able to hit enough to get on base and use those stealer's wheels. He played well in Double-A at the end of 2013, and he started there in '14 as well at age 24.

His bat wasn't a total zero in Double-A, but it wasn't great either with a .662 OPS. It got even worse in Triple-A, with a .465 mark. He's still learning to switch-hit, and his .043 isolated slugging mark from the left side isn't inspiring, but he did show good plate discipline as a lefty and recorded nearly as many walks (42) as strikeouts (59). From the right side, his isolated slugging went up to .120 and he even hit a homer.

But even while getting his first prolonged experience at the higher levels of the minors, Burns got to taste his first cup of coffee in the Majors as well. He made his MLB debut on June 28 against the Astros, entering as a pinch-hitter and lining out. He made his first start two days later and went 0-for-4. He'd come up straight from Double-A, but when he went down he spent the next month in Triple-A before coming back to Oakland as a September call-up. He entered 10 September games as either a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter -- on Sept. 8 he picked up his first career steal against Eric Surkamp and Tyler Flowers of the White Sox, and on Sept. 12 he notched his first career hit on a liner to center off of Seattle's James Paxton. He was on the Wild Card roster but did not play in the game, even though Jonny Gomes was at one point used as an emergency defensive replacement.

It was a season of minor league development for Burns, accented with the excitement of his MLB debut. His bat didn't catch up to the higher level of competition he faced, but at age 25 for most of 2015 he'll still be a guy to watch in Triple-A next season.

2014 season grade, relative to expectations: N/A ... Six plate appearances and a few pinch-running spots mean nothing except that Burns showed the team enough to give him a few reps in Oakland. He didn't do anything noteworthy, but he at least held his own by getting a hit off of a good young pitcher and stealing a few bases. If I were to grade his minor league season, I guess I'd give him a C- due to the fact that his bat didn't really take a step forward, but his excellent work on the base paths ensured that he didn't drop into D+ territory.

2014 season grade, overall: N/A ... There's really nothing to grade here.

Video highlights

Burns lines out in his MLB debut.

His first (and only) MLB hit, off of James Paxton. He entered as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Jason Hammel.

Here he is doing what he does best: stealing a base. Catcher Chris Ianetta got a perfect pitch to throw on, but Burns just barely beat it.


Billy Burns will likely open 2015 in Triple-A. If he ever hits enough to stick in the Majors, he'll be an awfully fun player to watch.