The Detroit Tigers surprised many with their first pick in the MLB amateur player draft, selecting right-handed pitcher Beau Burrows out of Weatherford High School at No. 22 overall. One of the hardest throwing pitchers in the draft, Burrows has the fastball velocity that the Tigers covet, even if he is a bit smaller than a prototypical Tigers draft selection.
With limits on how much money the Tigers can spend on their draft selections, personnel decisions have become more of a jigsaw puzzle than ever before. In past years, the Tigers may have jumped at the chance to draft a player like Daz Cameron, who scared off several teams in the first round with high salary bonus demands. Burrows is currently committed to Texas A&M, but may be considered an "easier sign" than similar players available at that point, including Pennsylvania righthander Mike Nikorak, who was a more highly touted high school arm than Burrows.
There are several reasons why the Tigers could have opted for Burrows, which Baseball Prospectus' Chris Crawford touched on with his instant analysis after the pick was announced.
I actually was the high man on Burrows, as I see a hurler with a plus-plus fastball, and a chance for two above-average offerings with solid-average command. That being said, taking him over a guy like Nikorak or Drew Finley is a bit of a stretch to me—though I don't know what those players' bonus demands are. It's not a huge reach, but I wouldn't exactly call this a best-player-available approach.
MLB.com ranked Burrows as their No. 30 prospect, citing his plus fastball as a big reason why he could be successful at the professional level.
Burrows lacks prototypical size at 6-foot-1, but he generates his velocity with a quick arm and works down in the strike zone thanks to his high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery also helps him stay on top of his power curveball, which can be a plus pitch. His changeup has its moments as well.
Though Burrows doesn't have much physical projection remaining, he already has enough stuff and just needs more consistency. He's committed to Texas A&M, as has Ashe Russell, one of the other top right-handers in the 2015 high school class.
MLB.com gave Burrows' fastball a 65 grade (on the 20-80 scouting scale), with a 55 grade for his curveball and 50 (league average) for his changeup. ESPN Insider gave Burrows' arsenal similar projections, with potential for 55 command in the future. They were complimentary of that aspect of his game, which seems advanced for a pitcher of his age.
Burrows has elite arm strength and acceleration. Though he doesn't have ideal size, he's already touching 99 mph, up from 95 last year (he generally pitches a bit below that). Burrows' breaking ball isn't consistent yet, but he has good feel for it, and it will flash above average. His changeup is behind but projects as a solid-average offering, aided by his vertically oriented arm angle; the pitch fades away from left-handed hitters.
There aren't many prep right-handed pitchers who are eligible this year and have better control than Burrows, and while his command isn't where it needs to be yet, there's certainly reason to believe it will be good enough for him to start at the next level. Scouts like how consistent he has been, and the makeup is reportedly good.
Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel ranked Burrows as the No. 42 prospect in his pre-draft rankings and was impressed by his ability to maintain velocity deep into starts.
Burrows burst onto the scene hitting the mid-90's before his junior year in high school but there's some funk/effort to his delivery and he isn't that bad. He's progressed this spring, showing more command and has been sitting in the mid-90's late into starts.
Baseball America ranked Burrows as the No. 31 prospect in this year's draft.