Despite the profile described below, drafting hard-throwing righthander Beau Burrows was actually a surprise move from the Detroit Tigers. Sure, there's the hard-throwing part -- and boy, do the Tigers like their draftees to throw hard -- but with several high-profile college arms of similar stature available in the 2015 amateur draft, selecting the Texas high schooler at No. 22 overall was a bit of a shocker.
So far, so good. Burrows blazed through the Gulf Coast League last summer, allowing a 1.61 ERA while striking out 33 of the 111 batters he faced. He allowed just 18 hits in 28 innings, flashing an advanced arsenal that has him on the cusp of many national prospect lists. Scout already has him ranked as the No. 98 prospect in baseball, and a solid 2016 season should land him on every other publication next year.
Even if he doesn't find the same national hype as top prospect Michael Fulmer, Burrows has similar upside. His secondary stuff and command will determine how high his ceiling goes, but it will be a few years before we see him take the mound in Detroit.
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Like most Tigers prospects, Burrows' profile starts with his high octane fastball. He sits in the mid-90s during most starts, and touched as high as 99 miles per hour on the showcase circuit prior to last year's draft. Both MLB.com and TigsTown's Mark Anderson gave Burrows' fastball a 65 grade on draft day, with Anderson projecting plus-plus potential as he matures. Despite his smaller stature (more on that in a bit), Burrows generates plenty of downward plane with the fastball, giving it plenty of late life.
Speaking of Burrows' frame, nearly every evaluator that has laid eyes upon the young righty commented that his listed height (6'2) is a bit generous. However, that doesn't seem to be a hindrance. Burrows already has the build to be an innings eater at the professional level, something James Chipman noted in a scouting report for FanGraphs last September.
There’s solid strength in Burrows’ upper body and core. His lower half is exceptionally strong with fairly thick tree trunk legs; there’s minimal physical projection remaining. That being said, Burrows’ frame already resembles that of a potential innings eater.
While command is always a work in progress for minor league pitchers, Burrows' control seems to be advanced for his age. Many evaluators were impressed with his fastball control on draft day, and he proved them right by allowing just 11 walks in 28 innings in Gulf Coast League action. The solid command profile stems from Burrows' delivery, which he repeats well. Baseball Prospectus' Chris Crawford said as much when he ranked Burrows the No. 3 prospect in the Tigers system this spring.
He repeats his delivery well without much effort in the arm path, and he’s generally within the margin of error when it comes to hitting his spots.
Naturally, Burrows' secondary pitches lag behind his mature fastball. Burrows throws a curveball and changeup, both of which he admitted he eschewed in favor of his overpowering heater at times in high school. Still, the curveball is a potential plus pitch, one that James Chipman notes "features tight rotation with late-breaking 11/5 shape at its best." Burrows still has trouble commanding the bender, and Mark Anderson notes that he "has stretches where he doesn’t stay on top of CB and pitch floats."
Burrows' changeup lags behind the fastball and curve at this point, but still has the potential to be a major league average pitch. Chris Crawford notes that Burrows "has good feel for his change, showing some deception from the quick arm and late fade." However, many note that Burrows will slow his arm speed at times, tipping the changeup during his delivery. The movement on it is also inconsistent, though it still flashes major league average potential. Like most minor leaguers, Burrows will need to hone this pitch as much as any to ensure his future in a major league rotation.
(h/t James Chipman)
Evaluation: James Chipman, FanGraphs/TigsTown
"Naturally, there’s a decent amount of risk when you draft a medium-framed high school right-hander. Given the raw stuff, ability to adjust, maturity, work ethic and competitive nature, it makes you feel better about projecting him to get through the riskiest injury years ahead. There’s mid-rotation ceiling for Burrows with the main roadblocks being the changeup and command of his secondaries, but if those don’t work out, he’s a potential late-inning reliever."
Projected team: Single-A West Michigan
Burrows only spent time in the Gulf Coast League last season, but the Tigers aren't shy about giving their top prospects an early taste of full season ball. At 19, Burrows will be among the youngest players in the Midwest League, but he has the arsenal to challenge the advanced hitters he will be facing (should he be placed there). One concern at this point may be workload; Burrows threw 28 professional innings last year on top of whatever he did during his high school season, and probably isn't in line for more than 100 or so in 2016.
Note: We're changing up our prospect coverage a bit this year. Instead of an "official" ranking of the best prospects in the system, we're going to profile those that are most interesting to us (and you too, hopefully). Don't worry, no one has been fired, and daily recaps will still happen during the season. We appreciate any constructive feedback you offer, and we'll take your prospect suggestions into account as well.