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Zack Burdi shows areas for improvement in High-A debut

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Former Louisville closer has arm for White Sox bullpen, but command will take some time

Zack Burdi
Jody Stewart/Winston-Salem Dash

The White Sox will need help for their bullpen this year, and they drafted Louisville closer Zack Burdi with that in mind.

Selected 26th overall with a supplemental pick in the first round, the Downers Grove native arrived in the system with triple-digit heat and a low-90s slider. He also possesses the makings of a changeup, and with three pitches comes the possibility of a conversion to the rotation. Watching Burdi and his severely closed approach, though, he looks like he’s designed for one inning at a time, and at max power.

He aired it out in his first game with the Winston-Salem Dash on Friday night. It wasn’t his pro debut — he pitched an inning for the AZL White Sox on Wednesday -- but the jump to High-A is much closer to his weight class.

Wilmington hitters kept him honest. Burdi allowed a run on three hits in an inning of work, and it was close to being worse. He gave up a run-scoring double on a hanging slider, and the line drive was inches away from leaving the yard.

Moreover, his inning ended on an outfield assist, as Hunter Jones gunned down the runner at the plate on a play after a soft single (the play would’ve been subject to review).

That said, the fastball velocity and life were plenty evident. Nobody could get around on it, as all batted balls in the air were to the opposite field — a soft lineout to right, a popout to first and a handful of foul balls. The bloop single, also taken to the other side of second, came on a not-bad changeup.

Burdi just handed Wilmington hitters a lifeline by not being able to locate a slider, and not really changing eye levels on his fastball. He did throw one good breaking ball to give you an idea of what’s possible:

It’s hard to pull the trigger when he locates the fastball inside:

The Winston-Salem Dash broadcast didn’t announce radar gun readings, but Matt Cassidy at Future Sox saw him in person, coming away with video of a three-fastball sequence in which he hit 101-102-101, ending with the aforementioned infield single with two outs.

So yeah, command will be the point of emphasis going forward, because the fast track is all his if he can get there. Friday’s game was a reminder that he shouldn’t be expected to contribute immediately. It’s worth noting that Chris Sale didn’t look particularly overpowering during his four games at Winston-Salem, and only started mowing down hitters upon his promotion to Charlotte.

Star-divide

Fellow first-round pick Zack Collins could be joining Burdi in Winston-Salem. With Miami’s run in the College World Series over, Collins was finally able to sign with the Sox on Friday. He’s down for 10th-pick slot value ($3,380,600), and he’ll make his Chicago introduction with the first pitch today.

With Collins in the fold, the White Sox have signed 10 of their first 11 picks. The only holdout is Cohoes' Zach Remillard, whose Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are still alive in the College World Series. He’s a senior, so the savings from his signing will likely contribute to the over-slot bonus for sixth-rounder Luis Curbelo.