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2016 Draft Preview No. 20: One Final Batch of College Pitchers

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A last group of college pitchers, in a draft absolutely loaded with examples of the form.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I had intended to do a Persons of Interest post this morning; the second and final one of the year. However, I didn't get the start on the post ahead of time I had hoped to, and while the scouting reports themselves in the POI posts are shorter, doubling the number of them still ends up leading to a larger amount of work overall.

Therefore, instead of the six small scouting reports, I bring you one final batch of three larger ones covering, yep, you guessed it, college starting pitchers. The depth of starting pitching in the college ranks this year is somewhat stunning, even by the usual standards of the draft, and given the space and time I could probably go on writing up nothing but college starters for weeks -- and perhaps months -- to come.

However, we have neither weeks nor months. So this is the last group of them.

Zack Brown, RHP, Kentucky

6'2", 200 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Once upon a time, when Zack Brown was coming out of high school, he was a gangly sinkerballer without enough velocity to really rate as a big-time prospect. I actually remember specifically passing on writing him up, thinking he was exactly the sort of player who needed to go to college to perhaps grow into a proper prospect, and the only reason I really paid attention to him was the fact he shared a name with an exceedingly obnoxious country music artist.

Well, Zack Brown has officially grown into a proper prospect, and if there is a god in heaven will end up the more famous bearer of his name. (I am very much not a fan of the other Zack Zac Brown.) And like many other high school pitchers who grow into proper prospects, the main difference for Brown has been three years of strength, and more importantly, three years of velocity.

Brown throws what can officially be titled a Power Sinker now; think of the Kip Wells we all hoped we were getting after that one magical game in Houston, where we bought into the Dave Duncan magic every bit as hard as the night Jeff Weaver shut down the Mets' vaunted lefty-thick lineup. The downward movement and heavy action on the sinker have always been strong for Brown, but the two-seamer now reaches 95 at times, without sacrificing that bowling ball quality. If you wanted to pull out a Rick Porcello comp and be more contemporary, that's a shoe that seems like it fits as well.

The one downside of that Porcello comp for Brown is the fact that, in spite of the bowling ball sinker being so similar, he has the same problem Porcello has struggled with for much of his pro career. As good as the sinker is, Porcello has always lacked a real putaway pitch when a strikeout is needed. Brown is in the same camp.

There are times when his curveball will flash plus, with hard spin and movement, and he can get a swing and miss with the pitch. Just as often, though. he'll hang it, rolling a soft bender up to the plate that even a college hitter with some semblance of discipline can crush. He throws a changeup, as well, and when he maintains arm speed with the pitch it can be very effective. Probably half of the changes he throws, though, he telegraphs by slowing his arm significantly. The pitch still tumbles and usually ends up low and out of the zone, so he rarely gets hammered, but it's an offering lacking proper deception.

Mechanically, I actually like what Brown does pretty well. His timing is good, even if he leads with his elbow a bit more than I want to see. The fact he throws such a high proportion of fastballs and changeups is also appealing to me. I would also like to see him pointing the ball more toward third than second base at foot plant, but I would hope that's correctable. Perhaps I'm hoping for too much. Still, I feel better about his future durability than many other pitchers in this draft.

In short, I don't think Brown is, as it currently stands, a future ace. He lacks the swing and miss stuff that would make me project that on him. And, in fact, he hasn't even pitched like an ace this spring for Kentucky; he's had a fairly brutal season. But the stuff is good and getting better all the time, and if ever there was a profile of a pitcher type who might have better luck against wood bats than even the nerfed synthetics used in college, it's exactly this.

Brown's stock has probably taken a tumble this spring, but not a huge one. He was perhaps a sandwich round guy coming in, maybe a back of the first round profile if a team really liked him, and now he's probably solidly back in the second round somewhere. There's more in the arm than he's shown to date, though, and a team who values fastball movement and an ability to keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark could perhaps see their way to snatching him up early as a potential value play.

Then again, if a team were so inclined to do that for that profile, they could always just go with Cody Sedlock, the Illinois starter with the similar profile who is actually, you know, good already. But if Brown falls past a certain point, obviously there's enough promise in the arm to make him very attractive. He also reminds me quite a lot of Jake Woodford, the Cardinals' early round draft pick last year. Just saying...

There's also a chance Brown ends up back at Kentucky for his senior season, to try and push his draft stock back up with numbers more reflective of his stuff. If I were a betting man, he might actually have the best odds of ending up in that situation. I would imagine some team will like the stuff enough, and think there's enough upside there, to make it worth his while to turn pro, though.

via prospectjunkies's channel:

Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville

6'3", 210 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

You know, there seem to be an awful lot of Zacks in this draft. I wonder if it has anything to do with Saved by the Bell.

Once upon a time, in the distant misty distantness of two years ago, there was a pitcher named Burdi in the draft. He was a closer, or more properly a Closer, and he threw as hard as basically anyone ever has, non-Aroldis Chapman division, scraping 102 with a fair amount of regularity. He was selected by the Minnesota Twins early in the second round, and basically dominated minor league hitters the way he had college hitters his first two stops in pro ball, striking out 121 batters in less than 85 innings. The dreaded Foream Tightness got him this spring, and he was on the shelf for awhile. He's back now, but hasn't looked great in 2016, and there are the inevitable worries about Tommy John surgery on the horizon.

Well, two years after Nick Burdi was drafted, here comes his little brother Zack, boasting a remarkably similar profile, very similar mechanical concerns, and a similar level of promise as a two-pitch monster.

Burdis apparently all throw hard. Nick was notorious for those 100+ gun readings, and while Zack doesn't quite live in that same stratosphere, he'll touch 100 from time to time and pretty comfortably works at 97. And really, I like Zack's fastball better than his brother's, if I'm being honest. The elder Burdi's heater tended to be a little on the flat side (not a problem when you throw that hard; think of Jason Motte or Brad Lidge at their respective bests, when the velocity made the lack of movement acceptable), while Zack's tends to be anything but. The pitch runs and sinks thanks to a three-quarter armslot, and same-handed hitters in particular just have fits trying to put the bat on the ball.

The elder Burdi's best pitch very well might be his slider; again, think of Brad Lidge in his prime. Zack's is maybe a touch behind that level of quality, but it's still a wicked pitch. It might not have true 80 potential the way Nick's showed in college, but I would slap an easy 65 on the pitch. Maybe a 70 grade. It's a sweeping, widescreen sort of pitch that gets tons of swings and misses when he stays on top of it. He gets around the side of it a bit too often, though, and when he does it tends to hang.

Here's the main difference between the Burdi Brothers (like the Bewlay Brothers, only not as good a song): whereas Nick was a plug-and-play late inning reliever, there is some thought Zack could start. He'll flash an average or better changeup at times, and for all the worries about his arm action, it's definitely better than his brother's, in terms of risk, I believe. Even so, I have to say that for me personally, I don't think I would try too hard to convert him to starting. I certainly understand the arguments, and have maybe made some of those same arguments myself in the past about the relative value of starters and relievers, but in the case of Burdi I would prefer to just let him do what he's done so well in the past in pro ball. He's nearly a readymade closer right out of the box; I don't know that I would be especially eager to mess with that.

Burdi might be a slight underslot guy as a college reliever, depending on where he was picked. Again, just something to think about when talking about a team that will likely make at least one selection in the early going that will help them out in terms of financial flexibility because of their extra picks.

via Adam McInturff:

Corbin Burnes, RHP, St. Mary's

6'3", 205 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Let me just start by saying I'm at least 50% a fan of Corbin Burnes because he wears those goggly-looking glasses when he pitches, a la K-Rod and Joe Kelly and Dillon Tate. I'm a sucker for a pitcher wearing glasses; I think it goes back to secretly thinking Kent Tekulve had a super cool delivery when I was a little kid.

Beyond the glasses, though, there's also the fact Burnes possesses one of the more well-rounded and developed repertoires of any pitcher in the draft this year, with a chance at four average or better pitches when it's all said and done. He lacks the pure upside in his offerings Jordan Sheffield brings to the table, but the extra variety could give them somewhat similar arsenals in terms of overall quality.

Everything for Burnes plays off his fastball, and it's a very good fastball for things to play off. He works in the low 90s consistently, sitting around 93 and touching 5 several times a game, and the pitch tends to have very good armside run. He can locate it to both sides of the plate, and tends to keep it down where he wants it the majority of the time. It's not a true sinker, but has good downhill action all the same. The velocity, movement, and command are enough in aggregate for me to put a 60 grade on the pitch.

Beyond the fastball, Burnes has three secondary pitches, all three of which are roughly average right now. None of his slider, curve, or changeup are probably good enough to rate a true plus, but all are anywhere from a 45 to a 55 on a given day. A pessimist could say that means he lacks a real out pitch, and that's somewhat true, but it's also true that within any outing Burnes has at least one and usually two offspeed pitches he can go to and feel good about the outcome.

For my money, the curveball is the most intriguing of his secondary pitches. The slider is probably a little more consistent currently, but when the curve is working, it's the closest thing to a plus breaking ball Burnes has. The fact it comes and goes is the only thing separating the curveball from a 60. The slider is solid enough, but if it were up to me I would probably try to get him to tighten it up into a cutter to work inside to lefties, rather than going down and away to righthanders. Continue to develop the curve as the primary breaker, and go to a cutter to work opposite-handed hitters inside. Sort of a latter-day Chris Carpenter approach, if you know what I mean.

The changeup is intriguing as well, with very good action and tumble at times, and occasionally very good deception when Burnes sells it with arm speed. The problem is, you rarely see the good movement and good speed differential and good arm action all together at the same time. More often, you'll get one of the three, maybe two, and the pitch will end up somewhere between just below average and average when it's all said and done. There's a definite feel for the pitch, though, and I could easily see a future where Burnes has bumped the changeup to a 50-55 offering, rather than something that more often grades out at 45.

If everything comes together for Burnes, he could potentially end up with a 60 fastball, 60 curve, 50 slider/cutter, and a 50 (at least), changeup. Projecting how that group would compare in terms of quality to a pitcher who maybe has one pitch that flashes a 65 but is one of only three or two instead of four is tough; a lot of it comes down to how well the pitcher in question can tunnel his pitches together so they appear similar out of the hand. I find Burnes's athleticism (he's a former two-way player), and breadth of offerings to be very, very intriguing; he's raised his stock significantly this spring with outstanding numbers for St. Mary's. I don't know that I would love him at 23 -- in fact, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't -- but if he was the guy at 34 or 35? I could certainly live with that.

via Eric Longenhagen:

Not much further to go now, everybody. Eight days, in fact. Seems like these go faster every year to me.