Twins Daily Draft Preview: Zack Burdi
Image courtesy of University of Louisville Sports InformationWHO IS HE?
Just like his older brother, Zack Burdi has emerged as one of the nation's most powerful collegiate arms while closing out games for a heralded Louisville program. The Cardinals have reigned over the Atlantic Coast Conference for two straight seasons with the flame-throwing righty handling the ninth.
In 2015 Burdi posted a 0.92 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 30-to-8 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings. This year he's at 2.00, 0.74 and 45-to-7 K/BB in 27 innings. Earlier this month he was named ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week after tallying nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 perfect fraames across three appearances against top-ten ranked teams. He's dominant.
Zack is a couple inches shorter than his brother Nick and throws with a slightly different arm angle, but the similarities between the two siblings out on the mound are numerous. So much that one scout remarked to the editor of Prospect Junkies, "If you've seen his brother then you've seen Zack Burdi because they're the same guy."
WHY THE TWINS WILL DRAFT HIM
Zack and Nick Burdi have a common trait that not many people in the world share: the ability to consistently fire fastballs at 100-plus miles per hour. Like his brother, Zack mixes in an upper-80s slider and he also throws a changeup that is rarely called upon.
One thing that might differentiate the younger Burdi – and make him far more attractive to the Twins – is that some believe he has a chance to start games at the next level. Converting college closers into starting pitchers, or at least attempting to, is not something the Twins have shied away from in recent years.
The idea of Burdi's premium velocity and aggressive approach being unleashed over six or seven innings is tantalizing. And taking a pitcher who optimistically projects as a starter but has a stellar relief background to fall back on can be a good strategy for an organization desperately needing any kind of impact arms. This undoubtedly played into the decision to gamble on Tyler Jay last June.
Whichever role he settles into, Burdi certainly has the look of an impact arm, and a fast-rising one at that. The 21-year-old would likely follow in the footsteps of his older bro and report straight to Single-A, with a quick path to majors assuming good health and good performance.
Plus, there's a cool novelty in the idea of two fireballing brothers locking down the eighth and ninth innings for the Twins in a few years.
WHY THE TWINS WON'T DRAFT HIM
The Twins have had three top 50 draft selections in the past two years and they have spent two of them on college relievers. Their pattern of using high picks on such players extends far beyond that sample.
Even if you ignore the mixed results of these decisions, it is necessary to vary strategy a little bit over time. While the Twins will always have a need for more high-caliber power pitchers, there are obviously other needs to be addressed. If there isn't a very strong belief internally that Burdi has a good chance of catching on as a starter, he just doesn't offer enough upside that is required in an organization's No. 1 draft pick.
Also, while Nick's injury issues this year (he's been limited to three total appearances) shouldn't be held against Zack in any way, they do speak to the magnified risk that is assumed when dealing with a kid who's touching triple-digits at such a young age.
Based on where Burdi is being ranked presently as a draft prospect, he would be a bit of a reach for the Twins at 15. MLB.com has him ranked as the 39th-best player in the class, whereas Baseball America has him 21st. (It should be noted that Hudson Belinsky, who helps compile the BA rankings, is a believer in Burdi as a starter).
I suspect the Twins will go another direction, for various reasons. But the excitement attached to the younger Burdi bro is undeniable.