Second Mock Draft From Keith Law Has Pirates Going to the Bullpen

Keith Law posted his second mock draft on Saturday (subscription required), and he has an unusual selection for the Pittsburgh Pirates with their 22nd overall pick. If you missed his last mock draft, he had the Pirates taking Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss. That changed this time because Thaiss is off his board two picks earlier to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Law mentioned in that first mock draft that the Pirates were higher than any other team on Louisville closer Zack Burdi, so with Thaiss off the board, it now looks like Burdi could be their selection according to Law. In the brief write-up, he notes that this strays from their recent draft strategy, but with the apparent interest there, Burdi is a player with a lot to like. His fastball regularly hits 100 MPH, while his slider hits low 90’s and gives him two plus pitches.

Here is the interesting part with Burdi. Some scouts see him as a potential starter, while others see him as a reliever who won’t need much time in the minors. The Pirates have passed on a lot of potential high-end relievers early in the draft, so I would think that if they draft him, he will at least be given a chance to start. He may not stick there, but I don’t think they will use their top draft pick for someone whose ceiling is a reliever, and who has some command issues according to some scouts. He can get away with most mistakes at that velocity, but he still has to throw strikes.

What these recent mock drafts have told us basically is that the Pirates are covering all of their bases with the first round pick, making sure they get the best player available. Law hears they have interest in Burdi, while Kendall Rogers hears they are interested in a high school bat. Jonathan Mayo heard yesterday that they were leaning towards selecting an arm.

So my advice is just pick a favorite and then be disappointed when they don’t pick them. My personal guess is that they look for an advanced bat at a premium position, but a player athletic enough to play a different spot if he needs to move due to a logjam at the position. They just started looking for players like this in the last three years. Versatility, on base skills and athleticism have become a focus of the system, so I think it’s too early to stray from that model. I’d expect a high school player as well, because it looks like a down year for talent in the GCL and Bristol this year, so a high school bat would help strengthen the bottom end of the system.

Since this article is about Burdi, here is a video. You can see the velocity, some plus pitches, but also some control issues.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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How did things turn out when we last drafted a college relief pitcher in the first round, instead of a highly touted college catcher?


A suggestion. Don’t draft anyone who has Boros for an agent.


Scott Boras was a hurdle the Pirates put behind them long ago. He tends to get the most out of Owners who want to pay, but there is no drama surrounding it. Gerrit Cole is a client, and the Pirates already know they will have to come up with John Lester-type money. I doubt he will get the Kershaw/Grienke bucks, but the market dictates that he can be a $150-200 mil SP.

With Liriano a FA after 2017, and Cole a FA after 2018, the ability to transition top of the Rotation SP’s from the minors is really in the spotlight. An absolute must to have at least 2 brought up in June 2016, and others later. If successful, that discussion between Boras and the Pirates regarding Gerrit Cole will never take place.

Scott Kliesen

John, not sure you realize this, but at conclusion of video the screen freezes on a picture of Mike Vick, w Falcons logo in background, giving the double barrel one finger salute.

I think it’s safe to say Vick is no fan of picking Burdi.


“So my advice is just pick a favorite and then be disappointed when they don’t pick them.” Great line.

John, did I read on PP at some point that some scouts think Burdi could help a team as soon as this September in a relief role? Starter potential aside, that would almost become an interesting option if you have a future closer who could help the Pirates as soon as this Fall (with a bullpen that could use some help). Crazy?

Also, any chance he’s there at #41 ?


I would love for him to be there at 41 but I just don’t see it. Too much upside even if it’s out of the pen. That arm is a lot to dream on. I do agree that he will, barring injury, likely help a pen this year. I see a Finnigan in him.

Bill Harvey

I would love to see them take Gavin Lux, as he is from my hometown, but he is pretty much limited to SS or 2B, so I am not sure there is enough positional flexibility there for the Pirates.

As for Burdi, the fb, slider combo is nasty, the delivery doesn’t look violent, but isn’t completely smooth either. Seems like a guy the Pirates could take a chance on turning into a starter. It could take a couple years, but not so different than developing many of the other pitchers in our system. Get him to command the fb better, then work in a change. That being said, if the Pirates see him as a reliever long-term, I don’t think he is the choice at #22 . That would go against everything NH has ever done in the draft.

joe s

I am hoping for a high end US bat’


Kid behind the dish has some pretty good receiving and framing skills.

Blaine Huff

Go to 1:50ish…the catcher looks like he has an arm as nasty as Burdi.


Really believe the odds are long that NH would go for someone that projects as a reliever in rd 1. Especially with his ability to build a pen.
With the upper minor leagues in such good shape, find project-able. We got time….


You can always move a starter to the pen like Luis Heredia.

Daniel F

So who is considered the 22nd best player available in this draft?


Depends who you ask and when you ask, there isn’t a clear number 1, so guessing who’s the best 22 is just that, a guess.

Daniel F

Thanks! I haven’t been following the draft closely so I wasn’t sure if it’s really that strong this year.


With Melancon a FA after 2016, Burdi is said to have the ability to step right into the majors with a 100 mph FB, and 2 other very strong pitches. Another possibility is a HS OF, Taylor Trammell, who hits well from the left side, knows the strike zone, and has plus plus footspeed. Another is Nolan Jones a HS SS who is already 6’5″ with an excellent bat from the left side. Another could be Eric Lauer a LHSP out of Kent St.

The draft is deep enough that the Pirates will get an excellent building block at #22 .

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