Mike Burrows had his roughest inning of the young 2022 season in the second frame on Saturday.
The 2018 11th rounder gave up three runs, starting off the inning with two doubles, a strikeout, and a two-run homer. Up until the home run, Burrows had yet to generate a swing and miss, which is uncommon for a guy who has a 32.5% strikeout rate.
After a brief visit to the mound from Altoona pitching coach Drew Benes, Burrows got back on the mound and struck out the next batter swinging, followed by three more strikeouts on the day.
“That’s what he does,” said Altoona manager Kieran Mattison of the recovery. “That’s the first outing he had where he gave up multiple runs, but at the end of the day he still gave us a chance to win that game.”
Burrows wouldn’t run into issues again until the fifth inning, when he walked the first two batters, and was removed for J.C. Flowers. The first batter scored, adding the fourth run for Burrows.
Most of this season has seen very impressive stuff from Burrows, who has a 2.35 ERA and an 11.7 K/9 in 30.2 innings. This comes after a breakout year in Greensboro last year where he had a 2.20 ERA and a 12.1 K/9 in 49 innings.
“He’s mentally tough,” said Mattison. “He stays in the fight. He don’t back down from anything. He’s going to continue to compete, one pitch at a time, and that’s just who he is. We love him.”
Burrows is quickly emerging as one of the top pitching prospects in the system, not just for his mental toughness, but also for his stuff. He boasts some of the best spin rates in the system with his fastball and curveball. He’s also been throwing a changeup more often, getting swings and misses on all three pitches this year.
A big improvement so far has been his control. While Burrows had control issues during his start this past weekend, on the season he has a 7.3% walk rate. That’s down from 10.4% the last two seasons.
“Burrows was a high school sign, so just gaining experience, getting those innings, and good conversations… Experience is the biggest teacher,” said Mattison. “You’ve got to go out and play. You’ve got to go out and pitch. You’ve got to go out and have at-bats. The more experienced these guys gain, the better they are. That’s something that Burrows takes full advantage of, and the more experience he gets, the more he’ll grow.”
The strikeout rate from Burrows has maintained the gain from last year, even at a higher level. If Burrows can follow last year’s improvement with a reduction on his walks, he could end up being this year’s version of Roansy Contreras.
There’s a lot of evidence that Burrows has good stuff, and good results from that stuff. Perhaps most impressive to me is his ability to limit damage on the spot, and immediately turn a bad outing around. That ability to recover and keep his team in the game might be more valuable to his future MLB career, which at the moment is looking very promising.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.