Thursday, February 7, 2013

Burnett with an "e"

Mention the name "Burnett" to any Pittsburgh Pirates fan, or most baseball fans for that matter, and the immediate reaction will be to discuss A.J. Burnett and with good reason. Burnett is coming off a bounce back season with the Pirates where he endeared himself to the vast majority of Pittsburgh baseball fans for his grit and his fierce demeanor. For years to come, he will be the "Burnett" when it comes to Pittsburgh baseball.

Jake Burnette would like to eventually change that. The younger Burnette, who adds an "e" to his name, was the beneficiary of a Pirates spending binge on the rule 4 draft in 2011. He was one of a handful of prep pitchers that the Pirates paid overslot money in order to make them sign a professional contract and forgo attending college. The two big names in that class thus far are Clay Holmes and Tyler Glasnow. Holmes - my #12 Pirates prospect - signed for a ninth-round record 1.2 million dollars and pitched well in his professional debut. Glasnow - who's on the list - signed for half the amount Holmes did, but out-performed him and saw a big velocity spike this past season.

Burnette isn't yet on that level, but injury, rather than talent, may be the main culprit.  The young prospect received almost as much bonus money as Glasnow.  Prior to the 2011 draft, Burnette was throwing in the high 80's.  After the draft, Burnette's fastball sat in the low 90's and touched 93.  That velocity carried over to the next year, into spring training, but by the time Burnette started the season at State College, his velocity dropped back to the high 80's.  Five starts later and Burnette was shut down for elbow soreness, possibly the reason behind his velocity drop.

Along with a heater with present above-average peak velocity - not to mention Burnette stands 6'4, 180 and has plenty of room to fill out - Burnette features two good secondary offerings. The first his a curveball and the second is a changeup. The curveball, which sits in the high 70's, is a good pitch with potential to be above-average in the future. Burnette's changeup is still developing, but he's more comfortable with the pitch than the average kid fresh out of high school.  The young right-hander is a long way from a finished product, but he has a nice mix of stuff and polish.  Ultimately, Burnette has the chance to have three average or better pitches.  One good, healthy year and he could be in the conversation with Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes.