Pirates Top Prospects: For Michael Burrows, 2021 May Still Be Tip Of Iceberg

It can be a very common misconception that when Ben Cherington took over as the General Manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was going to have to oversee a complete overhaul that included injecting talent into a lifeless farm system, and finding the Pirates top prospects.

While they have certainly added enough top prospects to where they most see them as having one of the best farm systems in baseball, former General Manager Neil Huntington didn’t exactly leave the cupboard empty.

The 2019 Pirates prospects class, led by Quinn Priester, has received strong reviews early on, and that was Huntington’s last in charge of the Pirates.

When it comes to the 2018 draft, the Pirates went with an over-slot deal with a right-handed pitcher out of Connecticut named Michael Burrows.

Pittsburgh liked him enough to sign him away from a commitment to UCONN, and after working his way slowly through short-season baseball in 2018 and 2019, became an intriguing name to watch as a part of a loaded Greensboro rotation in 2021.

An oblique injury kept him from maybe having the best season from any of the pitchers, not only in Greensboro but possibly the entire Pirates minor league system.

Pitching for Greensboro, Burrows posted a 2-2 record with a 2.20 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 49 innings. He was stingy to opponent hitters, allowing just a .143 average (.494 OPS) and 0.90 WHIP.

A mid-90s fastball and heavy breaking curve gives the righty Burrows one of the best two-pitch combinations in the entire Pirates system filled with pitching prospects. He made great strides in his control, going from a 4.12 BB/9 mark in 2019, to a 3.67 this past year. He did so and was still also able to up his strikeouts by nearly four batters per nine innings (8.86 to 12.12).

Here’s some video of Burrows during the 2021 season with Greensboro. MiLB TV doesn’t feature home Greensboro games, so the amount of actual film on Burrows wasn’t great, limiting to four starts.

Michael Burrows 2021 with Greensboro

It was an interesting sequence of games available for Burrows, as the first game shown was the start before he was injured. The second one was actually the one he left early, and the final was a start after he returned.

One of the biggest things to watch with the Pirates top prospects is how they use their secondary pitches, how comfortable they are throwing them in all situations. Burrows has shown why many consider his curveball to be a potential ‘plus’ pitch, throwing it for strikes and to get swings and misses.

Another thing to watch is how well the Pirates top prospects develop a third pitch to keep hitters off balance over the course of an entire start. While Burrows has a changeup he uses, going through the video you can see he doesn’t use it much and was really just for show at a point.

Further development of the pitch, and a reminder that this clip only covers three starts – and only seven innings total – will be needed when watching the video. He also made a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League, pitching against some of the best prospects in the minors right now.

In five appearances, one start, Burrows went 2-0 with the Peoria Javelinas, positing a 3.52 ERA while striking out 16 batters across his 15 1/3 innings. He saved his best performance for last, striking out six across three shutout inning in what was his only start of the fall.

Even in a system as deep as the Pirates top prospects, Burrows was one of the bigger risers last year, and when you think about it, that was over actually a small sample size. The righty has yet to throw more than 50 innings in a regular season, although he was able to make some of this innings back in the AFL.

So, even though he made quite a bit of a jump in most prospect ranking outlets, a 2022 season where he makes the jump to Altoona, shows further development with his change up, and is able to stay on the mound, Burrow’s stock could still find a way to skyrocket.

Another Pirates Top Prospects Material

  1. 2022 MLB MOCK DRAFT 2.0; Brooks Lee, Elijah Green
  2. 2022 MLB MOCK DRAFT 1.0; Elijah Green, Brooks Lee

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