Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Cassidy of Future Sox in Chicago. Among many things, we discussed the seemingly imminent arrival to the majors of 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Burdi. Already tagged as a likely fast-riser provided he stayed in a relief role, Burdi was in the typically aggressive Sox system, and seemed to be on their fast track to boot.
While the Sox pitching development has earned much benefit of the doubt, and rushed many an arm to the majors that surprised everyone with its precociousness, Cassidy was skeptical. Burdi has had a fastball ready for high-leverage major league innings for years now, and solid secondaries, but Cassidy felt the command was not developed enough yet.
Enough to help, that is.
In the wonderful world of a month ago, the Sox were still ostensibly trying to win in 2016, and the arrival of a rookie to the bullpen had to be weighed on the merits of their ability to improve the team, and how it compared to the impact and cost of looking to acquire a more veteran arm.
Now, those complicated times are gone. The Sox’ playoff hopes have met their maker, and what little ambiguity the front office left about that in their words has been completely borne out in their actions. Now, the standards for judging Burdi’s arrival have changed, as has our level of mystery about its imminence.
Was just told Zach Burdi is getting called up this week after one more appearance in Charlotte #whitesox
— whitesoxdave (@barstoolWSD) August 14, 2016
Hearing rumor that #WhiteSox prospect Zack Burdi will get the call to the majors after one more appearance at Triple-A Charlotte.
— Jesse Burkhart (@jesseburkhart) August 16, 2016
Obviously this is not an official announcement, but Dave Williams and FanRag have both been accurate this year.
Burdi’s work since becoming a professional has not been without flaws nor lapses of control, but he’s remained overpowering despite being aggressively challenged. He struck out 24 of the 64 hitters he faced (37.5 percent) in Double-A as a 21-year-old, and despite being promoted to Triple-A near the end of the stretch, Burdi has not allowed a hit to any of the last 39 hitters he’s faced (though he’s walked five).
Like Carlos Rodon last year, there’s only so much development that can take place at the lower levels of competition when a pitcher has stuff that is simply overwhelming to his competition. Whatever command Burdi is able to add is not going be any easier to achieve at a level where no one can touch his fastball, even when he splits the plate with it.
Unlike Rodon, Burdi will be joining the majors to pitch in relief, will very likely be auditioning for a relief role in 2017, and is less encumbered by trying to serve to dual roles of developing his third pitch while also fighting for survival against elite competition, and the prospect of him working with directly with Don Cooper should only cause so much concern about his development in the first place.
The initial results will likely be rough, and the young right-hander will probably get the most intense taste of baseball failure of his life, but the Sox are positioned to endure it without consequence. There are plenty of rookies already in the Sox bullpen, and even a fair share of DFA candidates in a group that doesn’t have anything beyond David Robertson, Nate Jones and Carson Fulmer that is indispensable. Making room should not be an issue.
It’s certainly fast, it’s certainly another White Sox rush job of a vaunted prospect, but there are enough issues coming to the South side in the next few months that will merit concern and scrutiny, and we needn’t waste any of it on Zack Burdi.
Lead Image Credit: Jamie Rhodes // USA Today Sports Images