On July 24, Burrell and the Phillies agreed to a five-year contract with a $3.15 million signing bonus. Upon signing, Burrell was assigned to the single-A advanced Clearwater Phillies of the Florida State League, and he was moved to first base because Scott Rolen, Philadelphia's third baseman in the major leagues, had just won the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Award. With Clearwater in 1998, Burrell batted .303 with 7 home runs and 30 RBI in 37 games.
Entering the 1999 season, Burrell was named the top prospect in the Phillies' organization by Baseball America, and they also named him baseball's 19th best prospect. He spent most of the season with the double-A Reading Phillies of the Eastern League, batting .333 with 28 home runs and 90 RBI in 117 games. He was named to the Eastern League's post-season All-Star team and won the Eastern League Rookie of the Year Award. He also played 10 games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons of the triple-A International League, batting .152 with 1 home run and 4 RBI. In addition to playing first base, he was used as an outfielder with both teams.
Burrell was named the Phillies' top prospect and the second-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2000. He began the season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Playing first base and the outfield, he batted .294 with 4 home runs and 25 RBI in 40 games.
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