3-5-23 – By Michael Castrignano – @412DoublePlay on Twitter
The idea that greatness can come from anywhere typically doesn’t apply to baseball players in New England. Sure, we’ve seen a fair few find success at the major league level, but it’s certainly not the norm. And RHP Michael Burrows didn’t have a ton of acclaim as a high schooler from Connecticut entering the 2018 MLB draft:
Burrows is a projectable pitcher with a quick arm, throwing from a three-quarters arm slot; he has a good chance to add velocity as he fills out. By the time of the 2018 draft, his fastball could touch 93 MPH, although it usually sat in the upper 80s with good sink and location. Burrows also throws a curve, slider, and change, with the slider being his best pitch. He wasn’t ranked in Baseball America’s top 500 prospects, but was the number five prospect out of Connecticut this year. (Pirates Prospects)
Picked in the 11th round of the 2018, Burrows opted to accept an overslot signing bonus of $500K to bypass his commitment to play in college at UConn. Following his signing, Burrows pitched 4 games of rookie ball (including 3 starts), compiling 14 scoreless innings with 4 hits, 4 walks and 9 strikeouts. He moved to short-season ball in West Virginia in 2019, where he started 11 games with a 4.33 ERA over 43.2 innings.
The pandemic shut down his 2020 season, but he continued working out on his own to get better in the down-time. Skipping the low-A level, Burrows jumped straight to hi-A Greensboro, a notoriously hitter-friendly park. He started 13 games, posted a 2.20 ERA with 66 strikeouts, 20 walks and only 3 home runs over 49 innings. He continued that dominance in 2022, starting in Altoona where he started 12 games, 52 innings, 69 strikeouts to 19 walks, and a 2.94 ERA – earning an appearance in the Futures Game – before a late season push to Indianapolis.
He had some struggles at Indianapolis and spent some time on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. His overall numbers are a bit inflated due to his final appearance of the season, which came against Columbus on September 28, and where he allowed 6 runs off 5 hits, 1 walk and only recorded 2 outs. He may have been rushed back too soon from injury as this was the result. Take away this outing, his numbers in AAA don’t look so bad. Certainly there is room for improvement. However, looking at his strikeout numbers and his walk rate, along with his mix of pitches, there is a lot to like.
If you’ve ever seen Burrows pitch, you know he has a devastating low-80s curveball with a HUGE 12-6 drop, along with a mid-90s rising fastball. Both of these pitches are rated highly, however, coming into the 2022 season, there were concerns that having only those two pitches would lead to him being relegated to the bullpen long-term.
In Spring Training last year, Burrows noticeably had a reformed pitch – a changeup in the mid-80s with deceptive spin. It was raw. It was new. And, throughout the season, it was working. His changeup is currently rated a 60 on the 20-80 scale by FanGraphs, who noted that he threw the pitch 16% of the time and induced a 53% whiff rate. A video released from spring training (courtesy of Alex Stumpf of DKPS) shows Burrows having added a slider as well.
He pitched two innings in Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays, allowing 1 very soft hit and 1 walk on a full count. He worked mostly with his fastball and changeup, with a few curveballs thrown in there. He didn’t show his slider in the game. At this point, it is most likely they have him focusing on establishing his fastball and changeup before adding to his repertoire. His fastball was sitting mid-90s and his curve had a spin rate of 2,981 RPM – well above league-average spin rates.
With all these impressive stats through the ranks, along with a solid build, velocity, pitch-mix and control, why aren’t more people talking about him? Quinn Priester has been widely talked about as THE GUY since he was drafted in the first round of 2019. Luis Ortiz sky-rocketed through the system last season, with many (myself included) anointing him as the ace of the future. Burrows, however, has largely flown under the radar.
He has never appeared on a top 100 prospects list. He only just cracked the top ten on Pirates lists this past year. But unlike many other young pitchers, Burrows has above-average control. And now, he potentially could have 4 above-average pitches. Of the young aces-in-the-making, Burrows is by far the most polished and could have the highest ceiling. This is going to be a name whom fans should become familiar with very, very soon.
One thought on “Digging into Burrows”
Good insight. Amazing to me how under the radar he has been