It was talked about in the offseason and even during the early parts of this season that the Detroit Tigers would sign a player who has a secondary cost. The most talked about were outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew. Signing either of those players would have cost the Tigers their first round pick in this year’s draft.
Instead, the Tigers stood pat and held onto that pick, which would end up being the No. 23 selection. The selection of Jonathan Crawford out of the University of Florida in 2013 was the Tigers only first round draft choice since 2010 because signing a free agent who had a compensation pick attached to him.
The Tigers selected a group of pitchers in the 2013 draft, who have a ceiling of being in the rotation. If one of those players–Crawford, Kevin Ziomek, Austin Kubitza and Buck Farmer–could sneak into the Top 100 prospects, they could be used as good trade bait for a deadline deal. The Tigers look to be extremely competitive over the next few years, so deadline deals will be happening.
All four of those guys are in the rotation for the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low-A) of the Midwest League. Each of the pitchers currently has an ERA under 3.00 and Ziomek, Kubitza and Farmer each have a strikeout rate of more than 9 K/9. The upside for those pitchers hasn’t gotten brighter and brighter each start they make.
With this year’s first round pick, the Tigers should be considering an impact player, someone who knows his identity and can sky rocket through the minors up to the big club.
Detroit loves hard-throwing pitchers, even if their command isn’t there at a young age (Joel Zumaya and Bruce Rondon stand out). The Tigers thought process is respectable. We can’t teach a guy to throw 100 miles-per-hour, but we sure can help him harness that fastball. That is just trusting your coaching staff, not only on the Tigers, but all of their minor league affiliates.
Nick Burdi is the perfect match for a team that likes flamethrowers. The University of Louisville product can hit 100 on the radar gun, something that is extremely rare for a college pitcher. He led his team with a 0.54 ERA and 16 saves, as well as striking out 58 batters over 33 1/3 innings pitched in 2014.
The First-Team All-American played in the Cape Cod League in 2012, the top summer collegiate baseball league in the country, and was ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the league that season by Perfect Game. After that summer, Burdi posted great numbers out of Louisville’s bullpen as a sophomore, catching the eye of many MLB scouts for the 2014 draft.
Burdi was drafted out of high school in 2011 by the Minnesota Twins in the 24th round but did not sign. Burdi is an excellent athlete, who ended up choosing baseball over football back in high school.
The best attribute the young flamethrower possesses is that he knows who he is and what kind of pitcher he is. Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors recently did a Q & A with Burdi and the Tigers received similar answers when talking to Burdi. The guy gets it. He knows he wants to be a relief pitcher and eventually a closer. He knows that his craft as a closer is important and having the “closer’s mindset” is something he knows is critical to success late in games.
The Tigers are familiar with Louisville pitching too, as they drafted Jeff Thompson last year from the baseball powerhouse. The team had some of the best pitching in all of college baseball, leading them to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA regionals last weekend. When the Western Michigan Broncos took on the Cardinals in Louisville earlier in the season, it was the best pitching some of those guys saw all season and it wasn’t even close.
With a pick late in the first round, it’s hard to land that can’t-miss five-tool prospect because those guys are long gone. The Tigers need to land a guy they know can help them win games, like last year’s second round pick, Corey Knebel. A future of Knebel and Burdi in the back-end of the bullpen will have the American League shaking for years to come.
Burdi looks to be the closer of the two, thanks to his 100 mile-per-hour heater, but with Nathan only on a two-year deal, the Tigers had to have been thinking of this scenario before signing Nathan. A 7-8-9 of Free Agent X, Knebel and Burdi is something teams all over the league would love to have, especially with the rotation the Tigers have, even if they lose Max Scherzer to free agency this year.
It could be a hectic week for Burdi, who could be a first round pick in the draft today and clinch a College World Series birth this weekend, as the Cardinals take on the No. 3 seed from the Florida State regional, Kennesaw State.
If the Tigers want quick impact in an important role, Burdi is the pick at No.23.