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Pittsburgh Pirates: Down on the farm, a minor league spotlight-Michael Burrows

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An in-depth look at Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Michael Burrows

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Michael Burrows
Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Michael Burrows
Brian L Cartwright

Major League Baseball teams can never have too many high-end pitching prospects in their minor league system. The Pittsburgh Pirates are fortunate enough to have a large stockpile of good young pitching prospects in their farm system. Prominently listed among the top of those Pirates pitching prospects is Michael Burrows.

In 2018, Burrows was the 11th round draft pick by the Pirates, who selected the righty with the 324th overall selection in the draft. Burrows represented one of the best high school prospects in the state of Connecticut when Pittsburgh drafted him. He was a star pitcher and third baseman at Waterford High School in Waterford, Connecticut.

Initially committed to play baseball at the University of Connecticut, Burrows opted to forgo his collegiate baseball career with the Huskies in favor of signing a $500,000 contract to play professional baseball with the Pirates.

After signing with the Pirates, the organization would assign Burrows to the Gulf Coast League. Burrows would get off to an incredible start to his professional career, starting three games in the GCL, pitching 14 innings, allowing no earned runs, striking out nine batters and walking two.

Following his exceptional start to his career, Burrows would be promoted to the Pirates Low-A affiliate, the West Virginia Black Bears, to begin the 2019 season. In 2019, he would pitch 43 2⁄3 innings for the Black Bears with a 4.38 earned run average, a 2-3 record, 43 strikeouts, 20 walks, while allowing only two home runs.

While the 4.38 earned run average is not anything to get excited about, it isn’t exactly indicative of how well Burrows actually pitched last year. Burrows struggled mightily in a couple of games last season, causing him to have an inflated earned run average.

Burrows showed the ability to get solid swing-and-miss rates and had an excellent 22.4% strikeout rate on the season. Overall, he had an 8.9 K/9IP rate which is excellent for a player not far removed from high school.

While his strikeout numbers were a positive last season, Burrows struggled with his command and his walk rate. Last season he posted a 10.4% walk rate, which will need to be improved upon if he hopes to progress through the minor leagues.

The 20-year old right-handed pitcher features a 3⁄4 arm slot delivery with long arm action. While his delivery is relatively effortless, he might benefit from shortening it a bit to add deceptiveness in order to increase his strikeout totals.

Burrows features a mid-90s fastball with good sinking action to it, an above-average curveball which he commands very well, a hard biting plus slider, and an average changeup that he throws effectively.

On a scale of 20 to 80 with 50 being average, Burrows has a 55 rating on his fastball, a 60 rating with his curveball, a 55 rating on his slider, a 45 rating on his changeup, and a 45 rating on his command.

Currently, Burrows can reach 96 miles per hour on his fastball. However, he struggles at times to maintain his consistency with his fastball velocity, often seeing the velocity dip down into the upper-80s later in games.

The good news is that at only 20-years of age, Burrows is still filling out his 6’3” and 180-pound frame. By adding additional mass and strength, Burrows should be able to increase his velocity and be able to improve his ability to maintain a higher velocity throughout the game.

Currently ranked as the 16th overall prospect in the Pirates organization, Burrows projects as a middle of the rotation pitcher. He is predicted to progress and make the major league roster sometime in 2022. It is expected that Burrows will begin the 2020 season with the Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers.

If Burrows can maintain his solid strikeout rate, cut back on his walks and control issues, and work on consistently maintaining his velocity throughout games, he will likely move through the Pirates system very quickly. The arsenal and makeup are present and make him a viable pitching prospect for the Pirates moving forward.