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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 15: Zack Burdi

The righty flamethrower is settling in with the Barons on his long road back from TJS

Working his way back to you: Burdi continues to work on regaining his velocity and feel post-TJS.
Kim Contreras/South Side Sox

Zack Burdi
205 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 24
2018 SSS Top Prospect ranking: 7
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 1

Burdi, a native of suburban Downers Grove, enjoyed a solid three-year run pitching exclusively in Louisville’s bullpen. He saved 11 games in his junior season, with a solid 3.30 ERA and 0.87 WHIP for the Cardinals over 27 games; in his 30 innings, he allowed just 17 hits and nine walks while striking out 47. The White Sox opted to take a chance on this high-ceiling reliever by selecting him in 2016’s first round (26th pick), which was actually a compensation pick the White Sox received when the San Francisco Giants signed pitcher Jeff Samardzija via free agency.

After receiving a signing bonus of $2,128,500, Burdi scaled nearly every rung of the White Sox system in 2016 by pitching for the AZL Sox, Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte. In a combined 38 innings over 26 games, he posted a terrific 3.32 ERA and 1.13 WHIP by allowing 23 hits (.174 OBA) and 20 walks (13.0%), striking out an incredible 51 batters (33.1%). Burdi returned to Charlotte in 2017, but struggled to a 4.05 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 33 13 innings, surrendering 30 hits (.231 OBA) and 17 walks (11.3%) while striking out 51 (33.8%). Perhaps the reason for his struggles was revealed in July, as Burdi succumbed to Tommy John surgery.

Burdi joined to the AZL Sox in 2018 for a rehab assignment that went reasonably well, all things considered. In 6 13 innings (seven games) he compiled a 2.84 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, allowing five hits (.217 OBA) and four walks (14.8%) along with seven strikeouts (25.9%). He also pitched five games in the Arizona Fall League, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out five innings. He left Glendale early due to fatigue, and reports had Burdi still struggling to regain his velocity, but he was otherwise healthy.

Before Burdi got hurt, he routinely ran it up at 95-100 mph and touched 102 mph with his fastball (that fastball has played at the lower end of that spectrum since his rehab began). Burdi’s slider reached the low 90s with good depth, and it’s a legitimate plus pitch that earns double-plus grades at its best. He hasn’t used it as much in pro ball, but Burdi also has a tumbling changeup that can make hitters look silly when they’re sitting on his fastball.

Still seen as a potential closer, not only will Burdi need to regain some of that lost velocity — he’ll also need to to get more consistent with his control and command, as a 12.3 BB% usually doesn’t cut it in the majors.

The best-case scenario for 2019 was to have Burdi cut through the White Sox system as fast as he did three years ago. So far, that doesn’t seem to be happening. In three games at Kannapolis, Burdi pitched to a 9.00 ERA before advancing to a bigger challenge at Birmingham. Over nine games there, Burdi has a 6.57 ERA and 1.946 WHIP. At 12.9 K/9, Burdi’s strikeout numbers are in line with his performance prior to surgery, although he is allowing more walks and hits than previously as well.

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