The Pittsburgh Pirates have quite a few bullpen battles going on this spring training. Here is how one of their top relief prospects has looked thus far.
During the 2017-2018 offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a deal to acquire one of the top relief pitching prospects in baseball in Nick Burdi. The team acquired Burdi in a very nontraditional way. To start his career, Burdi was selected in the second round during the 2014 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins.
Then, during the 2017-18 offseason the Philadelphia Phillies made Burdi the top overall pick in the Rule V draft. After the draft, it was quickly announced that the team from Eastern Pennsylvania was sending him West to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The reason Burdi was available was that he underwent Tommy-John surgery during the 2016 season. Therefore, he only threw a total of 20 innings between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. With all the time missed, there was some question about whether he would be able to come back and continue to be effective.
One of the strict stipulations that came with the acquisition of Burdi is that the team had to keep him on the active roster for the season. Fortunately for the Bucs, they were able to place him on the 60-day disabled list and slowly bring him back along. Burdi ended up making his way back and made his big league début last season in September. The Bucs were able to hold out until the rosters expanded which played out to their benefit.
The Pittsburgh Pirates still need to hold Burdi on the active roster for the first two months of the season or else they will have to return him to the Twins. This does not seem likely after all the time they have spent on rehabbing him and bringing him back. This spring has been a big opportunity for the big righty.
So far Burdi has shown some really positive signs, but also some negatives. The former Louisville Cardinal has thrown four innings this spring and has unfortunately given up two runs and three walks. The one positive thing is that Burdi has shown his power stuff, and he has already struck out eight hitters, an average of two strikeouts per innings. So he is showing the potential to be that type of back end reliever who can strike people out. He does need to show some better command and cut down on the walks.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates losing Edgar Santana, there is an open role for the sixth/seventh inning job. Burdi has the stuff to fit the mold of being a good bridge to get to the backend of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. If he continues to strike out hitters the way he has this spring, then he very well could stick with the Bucs.