Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Prospect Who Could Be a Major X-Factor This Season

The Pirates could see this pitching prospect return in a big way, and play the role as an X-factor in 2024.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could see this pitching prospect return in a big way next summer and play the role of a massive X-factor in 2024

The Pittsburgh Pirates have many young pitchers they are relying on for the future. Over the last year, we saw the likes of Bubba Chandler, Jared Jones, Thomas Harrington, and Anthony Solometo take major steps in the right direction.

Of course, they added a big-time arm when they drafted Paul Skenes out of LSU first overall and signed him to a record-breaking bonus. Many of these players could make their debut in 2024. But there is a potential X-factor that could play a massive role in the second half of the season that no one has talked all that much about this off-season, and that’s Mike Burrows.

Burrows was rocketing up prospect boards in 2021 and 2022. The right-hander had always shown a plus fastball with mid-90s velo and over 2500 RPM. Meanwhile, his curveball sat around 3000 RPM. Many questioned if he would ever develop enough of a changeup for it to be a reliable third pitch, but that’s exactly what he did after his return to minor league baseball from COVID. Not only did he make it a viable third offering, but one on nearly par with his fastball and curveball.

Burrows pitched well in 2022, tossing 94.1 innings and working to a 4.01 ERA, 3.29 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP between Altoona and Indianapolis. He had a strong 28.2% strikeout rate and 0.76 HR/9, along with a quality 7.6% walk rate. His ERA was a tad high, but that’s mainly because of his last start, where he allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Heading into this game, Burrows’ ERA for the season was only 3.46. Despite making up less than 1% of his total innings pitched in 2022, this one game accounted for 13% of his total earned runs allowed.

The Pirates added Burrows to the 40-man roster that off-season. He earned protection from the Rule 5 draft at this point. He then entered 2023 Spring Training, with many expecting he’d be in the rotation by June. On top of that, he was working on a new pitch: a slider that looked decent during Spring. But Burrows would only pitch in two games in 2023 before experiencing elbow pain and eventually having to undergo Tommy John surgery in late April.

Unfortunately, it ended his 2023 season before it even started. On top of that, it eliminates him from making his 2024 debut until after April. But if there are no setbacks, that sets him up for a return sometime in the summer of 2024. It doesn’t seem like many people are talking about the impact he could make, either.

Remember, Burrows was expected to be an impact starter for the Pirates in 2023. That was impeded by surgery, but he could be the Pirates’ best summer addition, and it will come from within their system. Burrows could make a massive impact on the 2024 team, and it seems like he’s flying under the radar, which makes him the Pirates’ biggest X-factor in 2024.

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