Brewers Prospect Corbin Burnes Is Missing Barrels

Corbin Burnes is carving up hitters. Recently promoted to Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, the 22-year-old right-hander boasts a 0.99 ERA, and he’s allowed just 37 hits in 63-and-two-thirds innings. The bulk of that dominance has come with the high-A Carolina Mudcats, with whom he spent the months of April and May.

Drafted by the Brewers last June out of St. Mary’s (California) College, Burnes is looking every bit a steal as a fourth-round selection. Plus stuff is a big reason, as is a take-no-prisoners attitude. Unlike a lot of young pitchers, Burnes doesn’t shy away from the power-pitcher label.

“I definitely consider myself a power pitcher,” Burnes told me before making what is thus far his lone Double-A start (which was truncated by weather). “I’ve got a power fastball and a pretty hard slider. The goal for us is to get a guy out in three pitches or less, but I’m not trying to feed the middle of the plate and let them hit it. For the most part, I’m out there trying to miss bats.”

He’s been missing a fair number of them. In 99.1 professional innings, the confident right-hander has punched out 101 batters. And when he has induced contact, he hasn’t been burdened by barrels. Burnes’s batting-average against as a pro is a flyweight .178.

His ascent into legit-prospect status began with the Gaels — “My college coach, Eric Valenzuela, developed me into the pitcher who got me drafted” — and it’s skyrocketed since he made a mechanical change in Maryvale. Working with minor-league pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin and Mudcats pitching coach David Chavarria, he retooled his delivery at Milwaukee’s spring-training complex.

“I used to start my windup almost like I was out of the stretch,” explained Burnes. “It was a Marcus Stroman kind of look. I was turned completely sideways — it was like a ‘leg kick and go’ — and now I’m more squared up to the plate. That’s helped me get more into my legs and lower half, and it also takes a lot of pressure off of my arm.”

His previous windup was modeled after those of Stroman and David Price — “I liked how their deliveries were real simple, real compact” — but Burnes is equally comfortable with what he’s doing now. The fact that he’s getting “another tick or two on the fastball” doesn’t exactly hurt. Nor does the extra movement that’s accompanying it.

“Most starts I’ve been sitting anywhere between 92 and 95, and recently I’ve been as high as 96-97,” Burnes told me. “I also have a little bit of cutting action to my fastball, which I’ve kind of developed over the last couple of months. It’s not something I’ve been trying to do. The mechanical changes have given more life to my fastball.”

The Bakersfield, California, native complements his suddenly more explosive four-seamer with a slider — “my best secondary pitch” — a curveball, and a changeup. And again, his bulldog approach plays a major role. It’s usually a cliche when a player calls himself a competitor, but in Burnes’s case, the words come with a stiff upper lip.

“In my mind, no one that steps into the box is better than me,” proclaimed the headstrong hurler. “That’s how I think for every pitch, for every batter. I feel that demeanor — being a big-time competitor — has a lot to do with the success I’m having. When you step into the box against me, I’m going to overpower you. That’s just how it is.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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6 years ago

Huge groundball rate too. He actually has a shot to stick in a rotation someday, which is pretty great for a 4th rounder.