Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Stockwatch: Michael Burrows


Right-handed pitching prospect Michael Burrows could find himself as one of the Pittsburgh Pirates late-inning arms in the near future.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of relief pitching prospects. Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears are the two most popular. Yerry De Los Santos might be more under the radar, but put up great numbers in his first full professional season. Despite currently being a starting pitcher, Michael Burrows could join them as one of the Pirates next relief pitching prospects.

The right-hander was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 11th round of the MLB draft. Burrows pitched 14 professional innings at Rookie Ball during the same year he was drafted. Overall, he put up some solid numbers. He didn’t allow a single home run, only walked four batters, and put up a WHIP of just .714. However, Burrows didn’t really strike out that many, getting nine batters down on strike three.

Last year, Burrows played at Low-A West Virginia. He only had a 4.33 ERA, but a solid 3.54 FIP, and 3.72 xFIP. Burrows faced two issues. Though his strikeout rate was up at a solid 22.3%, it wasn’t an overwhelming strikeout rate. He also had a 10.4% walk rate, which didn’t really help with his unimpressive strikeout rate. However, he did only surrender two home runs for a .41 HR/9 and 4.38 home run per fly ball rate.

Now so far, Burrows has only worked out of the bullpen once, that being in 2018. But he doesn’t really have the arsenal to be a starter. He has a fastball and curveball. But both are above-average pitches. Burrows has a 50 current and 55 future grade on his fastball, and a 55 current and 60 future grade on his curveball. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, with his fastball sitting in the 90-94 range, and tops out at 96.

But what gives Burrows so much potential in his pitches the fact he has so much spin. Burrows’ fastball averages around 2550 RPM. That’s the most spin rate of any fastball by any Pirates’ pitcher, just out beating another spin rate master in Steven Jennings. Not only is it the highest in the Pirates’ system, but it also is one of the highest among all prospects. A really similar fastball to Burrows is Sonny Gray’s fastball. Gray’s fastball sat in the top 92nd percentile among fastball spin rate in the majors in 2019, and also tossed it for about 93 MPH. The average RPM on a fastball in 2019 was in the low-2000’s.

His curveball has 2800 RPM. While it doesn’t surpass Jennings’ 3000 RPM slider, it ranks second among Pirates’ pitchers, and ties him with Santiago Florez’s curve. The average curveball spin rate was in the mid-2000’s, so Burrows is well above average. Its spin is comparable to Max Fried’s curveball in terms of spin rate. Fried got batters to hit the pitch for a .212 BA and .327 slugging percentage just to show how effective it can be.

One thing that is a bit worrisome is Burrows’ control and command. We saw him struggle with walks in 2019. His command grade per Fangraphs currently sits at 35, but only has a future of 45. However, below-average control is something you can live with if he can start striking batters out. Burrows definitely has the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher. The spin on his pitches could really help him get some movement.

That can really help deceive a lot of batters. If he moves to the pen, we might see an increase in fastball velocity too as he won’t be pitching more than one or two innings most of the time. Faster pitches usually have more spin, so I wouldn’t be surprised if his fastball would have one of the highest spin rates in all of pro ball.

Next. Podcast: Free Hayes. dark

Burrows definitely has the stuff to become a really effective relief pitcher. With an increase in velocity and spin rate, his strikeout numbers should improve. While his control and walk rate is a bit questionable, he doesn’t allow that many long balls. But so long as his control doesn’t become a major liability, Burrows could be one of the Pirates’ set-up options in 2022 or 2023.