On July 7th of this year, right-handed pitcher and Pirates Prospect, Michael Burrows took the mound for the Greensboro Grasshoppers at First National Bank Field as they faced off against the Asheville Tourists on a fairly hot and steamy Wednesday afternoon. In 5.1 innings of work and on 86 pitches, Burrows would strike out 10 Houston Astros Minor Leaguers, walk two and allow only one earn run on one hit in the course of what would be by far his best start of season to date; lowering his ERA and his WHIP back down to 2.30 and .88 respectively.
Unfortunately, it was during his next start, only six days later when Burrow would be removed from the game after only 1 inning and 10 pitches; ultimately being placed on the IL with a left oblique injury, and missing out on almost two full months of the season.
Surprisingly, at the time, and even up until couple of days ago when Alex Stumpf, Pirates Beat Reporter, from DK Pittsburgh Sports wrote about him for the second time-with his first article on the 21 year old righty coming back in November of 2020-Burrows name is not one that has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes pitchers on the Grasshoppers’ roster.
Usually, it starts with Quinn Priester, moves on to Carmen Mlodzinski and goes down a little bit further to Tahnaj Thomas or sometimes even Braxton Ashcroft, before finally settling on Michael Burrows; which is somewhat understandable. Priester is the 1st Round Pick from the 2019 MLB Draft and is the pretty much the consensus #2 Prospect in the Pirates Organization, Moldzinki is also a 1st Rounder (Comp Round A/31st Overall) from only a year ago and ranks any where from #10 to #18 depending on what site you favor, Thomas has been highly touted since coming over in the Luplow/Gonzalez Trade with Cleveland during the 2018-19 off-season, along with being placed as high as #4 by Fangraphs in 2020, and Ashcraft, prior to this season and his season ending Tommy John surgery, regularly ranked from around #12 to #24; while Burrows on the other hand, generally found himself right at #30 or just off the list.
Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 11th Round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Waterford High School in Connecticut, Burrows benefited from the Pirates inability to sign their Comp Round A Pick Gunner Hogland by receiving a $500,000 bonus ($375,000 over slot); resulting in him forgoing his original commitment to UCONN, and immediately beginning his professional career in the Gulf Coast League. In minimal work, only 4 appearances and 14.2 innings, the 18 year old right-hander didn’t allow a single earned run.
He then followed this up with a full season in the New York-Penn League with the West Virginia Black Bears, where he earned a 4.33 in 43.2 innings and across 11 starts. At the time, the main and really only knock on Burrows was the lack of a third pitch. With a fastball, that sat between 90 to 94 and a high 70’s to low 80’s curveball, he could easily make hitters swing and miss due to his unbelievably high spin rate; yet, there was some concern as to whether or not this would translate as he made his way up through the system in a starting role.
Insert the 2020 MiLB Shutdown here, and enter a changeup into the conversation, along with an uptick on his fastball from 90-94 to 93-96, but still with the same spin and movement; conclusively resulting in a 2.20 ERA, a .90 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 49.0 innings.
These satisfying adjustments, and the results that have come along with them, have also culminated in some additional attention from some prospect experts; moving up from 24 to 10 on Baseball America’s Top 30 Pirates Prospects, and from 30 to 14 according to MLB Pipeline. Currently, he is listed at 32 on Fangraphs, but is teetering on a bump from a 40 to a 40+ FV on the site; which could eventually lead to as high as a Top 15 to 20 ranking.
Now, rankings and future values aside, it is likely that Burrows will get an actual bump from Greensboro to Altoona to begin the 2022 season; especially if he continues to perform in the playoffs for the Grasshoppers.