At first glance, it might seem like a tough choice for a young baseball player. On the one hand, there’s a Division 1 school that wants to give you a full ride. On the other, major league scouts are very high on you.
For Mike Burrows (@mtburrows), however, the choice was easy.
“I stuck with my number,” says the 21-year-old righty starter. He had a figure in mind that, if an MLB team met it, would lead him to pro ball rather than the scholarship that the University of Connecticut was offering.
And so the Pirates did, taking him in the eleventh round of the 2018 draft out of Waterford (CT) High School and meeting his number.
Bucs Dugout profiled Burrows last year, unfortunately just as the COVID-19 pandemic began its spread. He spent the 2019 season with the New York Penn League Pirates affiliate West Virginia Black Bears, but the pandemic soon shut down the 2020 minor league season. During our conversation, Burrows told me that the indications were that he would be joining the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers this season and that he was happy with his progress through the Pirates’ minor league system. “Baseball’s very tough to have any expectations,” he said.
He’s also happy with the new Pirates management, saying that he met general manager Ben Cherington and pitching coach Oscar Marin at Bradenton last year before things shut down.
“They are invested in us; they do see us as their players coming up,” he said, noting that Cherington frequently ate and mingled with players, something he hadn’t seen with previous management. He enthused about Marin’s input as well, telling me that the upgrade in the Pirates’ pitching technology, including the Raspodo analytics system, has made a noticeable improvement in his pitch design. One of his goals is to hit 100 MPH on his fastball, and he told me that he’s been able to hit 99 a few times.
If this recent tweet is any indication, breaking triple digits is well within Burrows’s reach:
Growing up in Waterford, Burrows was a Red Sox fan and admired Sox aces Pedro Martinez and Josh Beckett. He played some infield in high school, but pitching really clicked for him in his junior year, when colleges and pro scouts began to call. He’s glad of that now because “hitting is the hardest thing in pro ball.”
In addition to improving his fastball speed, Burrows also wants to add a couple of MPH to his curveball, saying that he’s at the point where that small speed increase will make a big difference in his strikeout ratio. His repertoire right now is fastball/curveball/changeup, and he’s wary of throwing too many pitch types.
“I want to earn the jersey,” he told me, saying that players throughout the PIrates system are excited about the opportunities available after the team’s recent moves at the Show level.
With his work ethic and attitude, he’s going to get that opportunity.
Special thanks to Paul Kuo of Ballengee Group for setting up this interview.