Rumors have floated that teams are interested in LHRP Tim Hill. If a trade were to happen, it would leave the Royals with only 7 LHPs on the 40-man roster. Even if they do the expected and keep Hill, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add another LHP to the active roster. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking at Braves LHP Thomas Burrows. The other is that he has a walk rate lower than most of the names we are hearing about for the Rule 5 selections. I also think he could stick as a Rule 5 pick if he attacks hitters for the entire season.
Burrows pitched last season in Mississippi and Gwinnett. Those are the Braves Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, respectively. He started in Gwinnett giving up 12 runs in 19.0 innings. He gave up runs in three of the first five games in Triple-A. Unsurprisingly, Burrows control struggled at this point and he walked 12 batters in the same time span.
Burrows was sent down and did much better in the Southern League throwing in 8 games and not walking a single batter. He struck out 13 and allowed just 6 hits. Burrows quickly got the call to go back to Gwinnett.
In his second Triple-A go-around, he fared much better in the 17.0 innings he pitched. Burrows cut the walks down to 6 and opponents hit only .186 against him. The numbers show his adjustments and learning curve taking place. Burrows gave up runs in just 3 of his 11 outings and two of those came in back-to-back games early. At that point, it seemed that he got dialed in.
I’m not sure why the Braves sent him back to Mississippi because he was throwing effectively and had only given up 1 run in his final 10.1 Triple-A innings. He struggled after the move and he took losses in three consecutive outings before finishing his season on a win.
Burrows had some early issues adjusting in Triple-A when he started nibbling rather than attacking. The second time he got to Gwinnett, he seemed to get some things figured out.
The walks didn’t pile up, but they became more prevalent to the tune of 4.50 per 9 in Gwinnett. His K/9 rate dropped under 10.0 for the first time in his career finishing at 9.8. I blame it on the new baseball and adjusting to the level. In Double-A, his 2.35 BB/9 rate was strong. He kept his WHIP down around 1.00 with 10.3 K/9.
Burrows also made a 2018 stop in the Arizona Fall League where he pitched 12.0 innings allowing just 3 runs on 11 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 13 batters.
Burrows has been a reliever throughout his professional and collegiate career. Braves scouts liked him because he had a bulldog mentality and they could see him pitching late out the bullpen in close games. It’s why they targeted him from Seattle in the trade that sent Mallex Smith to the Mariners.
Burrows is a low-90’s guy with a slider. He only uses two pitches. The slider moves away from LHHs with more of a continuous movement rather than a sharp, late break. However, hitters find themselves chasing it out of the zone and freezing while it crosses in the zone. The deception is created by the angle with which the ball approaches home plate. Burrows arm slot is high three-quarters and his release is smooth but there are some herky jerky movements as he lifts and goes to the plate. It’s good deception from the first base side of the rubber.
There are reports that his slider has sharp, late movement but I wasn’t seeing it in the three outings I watched. But, the slider was effective in all three and often you let the batters tell you how good a pitch is.
As Burrows adjusts to the MLB ball and level, he should continue to improve. Burrows could be a solid edition to the Royals pen because he just seems to get the job done. He is close to big league ready although he could use more adjustment time at Triple-A. I was encouraged to see his adjustments and learning curve taking place but disappointed when he went back to Double-A and didn’t have continued success. This possibly could be chalked up to the adjustment back to the Double-A ball. With a 26-man roster and the need for LHPs, Burrows makes sense as a guy who should get a shot with someone. It’s a low-risk investment with a high-reward for the Royals.
Here’s a funny thing which means absolutely nothing. The last game I watched Burrows pitch was against Durham. Sam McWilliams threw the top of the 7th while Burrows threw the bottom. McWilliams was one of the Royals Rule 5 targets last year who didn’t stick with the club.
Photo from MiLB.com. No credit was given.