The Tigers selected right-hander Beau Burrows, one of the hardest throwing prep arms in the class, out of Weatherford High School in Texas with the 22nd-overall pick a few months ago. After quickly signing for just over slot value ($2.1 million), Burrows was assigned to the Tigers’ Rookie-league affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. The 18-year-old right-hander put together an impressive professional debut, with above-average numbers but, more importantly, Burrows’ pre-draft stuff and command were present and he showed the aptitude to adjust to pro instruction. I observed two of Burrows’ starts, on August 13 and August 27.
Generously listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Burrows is likely closer to an even six-feet tall and has a mature build for his age. There’s solid strength in Burrows’ upper body and core. His lower half is exceptionally strong with fairly thick tree trunk legs; there’s minimal physical projection remaining. That being said, Burrows’ frame already resembles that of a potential innings eater.
Burrows and the Tigers have been hard at work tweaking his mechanics since he joined the organization this past June. Previously working from a near straight-over-the-top arm slot, Burrows has since dropped down a tick to a more standard high 3/4 arm-slot. It’s still a rock-and-fire delivery, but there’s significantly less effort than his prep years, where he was considered a high-effort guy.
Burrows is quick to the plate, he hides the ball well and has some deception in his delivery. The Tigers are working with Burrows to limit some of the post-release noise, as he previously fell aggressively towards first base, often spinning out causing him to finish his delivery facing second base. He repeats his delivery and maintains his arm slot well, especially considering multiple recent changes. Burrows holds runners fairly well, routinely delivering the ball to the plate in an average amount of time, typically between 1.3 and 1.4 seconds.
Burrows’ fastball held its velocity throughout both outings, sitting comfortably at 92-95 mph and topping out as high as 97 mph. The offering is thrown downhill with late life and solid command. He showed the ability to locate to all four quadrants of the strike zone and keep batters honest by challenging them inside.
Burrows’ breaking ball sits between 78 and 81 mph and it features tight rotation with late-breaking 11/5 shape at its best, and he uses it as a put-away pitch to both sides of the plate. Burrows is comfortable throwing the breaking ball in different counts and it’s been effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. Slightly above average in its current state, Burrows’ breaking ball is a legit out pitch with solid plus potential at its best.
Burrows’ changeup sits in the mid-80s; it’s fairly firm and it currently lacks enough fade to challenge right-handed batters. He keeps his arm slot but fails to consistently maintain arm speed at times, which can telegraph the pitch. Burrows will occasionally show feel for the pitch, throwing one with steep tumbling action and solid fade, giving me reason to believe that it can develop into an average offering.
Burrows is a control-over-command pitcher, meaning he throws above-average stuff in the strike zone often, but relies more on the stuff than the location to draw weak contact or whiffs. His fastball command is advanced for his age and could end up above average. He has some feel for locating his curveball but the feel for the curve and changeup still comes and goes. Scouts are comfortable rounding up their grades on Burrows due to wide reports of impressive makeup. It’s clear just from watching him pitch that he’s a fierce competitor, but remains calm and even-keeled on the mound.
Naturally, there’s a decent amount of risk when you draft a medium-framed high school right-hander. Given the raw stuff, ability to adjust, maturity, work ethic and competitive nature, it makes you feel better about projecting him to get through the riskiest injury years ahead. There’s mid-rotation ceiling for Burrows with the main roadblocks being the changeup and command of his secondaries, but if those don’t work out, he’s a potential late-inning reliever.
– Tigers’ left-hander Gregory Soto finished the 2015 season with pedestrian numbers but showed encouraging development during the season. This season Soto struck out 45 and walked 31 batters in 39 innings, clearly underlining his biggest issue (command) and attribute (swing-and-miss stuff).
The 20-year-old Dominican is taller and more chiseled than the listed 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. His fastball sits 92-94, touching as high as 96 mph. During extended spring training, his breaking ball sat between 72-74 mph, lacking the desired velocity and tight rotation scouts like to see. Over the course of the GCL season, Soto showed better feel for the pitch via increased velocity and consistency, flashing above-average potential. Soto also mixes in a changeup that’s firm but improving and a short, low-80s slider that both lag behind the fastball and curveball.
Soto is essentially a lottery ticket until the command improves, but his handedness and power fastball/curveball combo make him a prospect to monitor.
James Chipman is a prospect writer for FanGraphs, The Detroit News and Scout.com. A resident of Orlando, FL, he frequently views prospects in the Florida State League, Gulf Coast League as well as Grapefruit League and Extended Spring Training. He can be followed on Twitter: @J__Chipman.