Is Nick Burdi the Pittsburgh Pirates Closer of the Future?
By Marty Leap
Is righty Nick Burdi the closer of the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates?
If there is a 2020 MLB season, right-handed pitcher Keone Kela will be the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even if there is not a 2020 season, Kela will be a free agent this upcoming winter. Due to this, the Pirates need to begin to look for the future of the back of their bullpen.
Barring the Pittsburgh Pirates surprising people and being contenders, if there is a 2020 season Kela is a slam dunk to be traded whenever the trade deadline occurs. Due to this, the need for the team to find their closer of the future may be more pressing than it appears. Is this close of the future righty Nick Burdi?
At the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings, the Pirates acquired Burdi from the Philadelphia Phillies. This came after the Pirates sent international free agency money to the Phillies, following the Phillies selecting Burdi from the Minnesota Twins in the Rule 5 Draft.
Recovering form Tommy John Injury, Burdi pitched in two games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in September 2018. Due to a nerve issue, Burdi was limited to 8.2 innings in 2019. In these 8.2 innings, however, he appeared to be on his way to becoming a future dominant bullpen arm. He threw a power fastball that routinely topped 100 MPH, to go with a wicked slider.
Prior to Spring Training games being suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Burdi had pitched in 4.2 innings in Grapefruit League play. He had allowed just a single run on three hits, a walk, a home run, and eight strikeouts. He was looking like the dominant pitcher he had flashed being in the past.
If the 2020 season gets underway, Burdi will be a member of the Pirate bullpen. Odds are, he will have a high leverage position as well.
Last season, in his short sample size, Burdi’s fastball averaged 96.9 MPH. He complemented this his a slider that had a lot of bite as it averaged 87.8 MPH. His slider generated a wicked 49% swing-and-miss rate, while his fastball generated a below league average 86.8 MPG exit velocity. Both pitches are more than capable of blowing opposing batters away.
Due to the lack of innings pitched, it can be difficult to project Burdi’s future. That said, he has the pure stuff needed to be a dominant reliever. If this continues and he pitches well, while staying healthy, in 2020, then his future potential with the Pirates could be limitless.
With his power fastball and wicked, wipe out slider, Nick Burdi has all the tools needed to be the closer of the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. If he stays healthy, this day could arrive sooner rather than later. This day may even arrive before the end of the potential 2020 season.