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Nick Burdi May Be More Than A Typical Rule 5 Pick

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Nick Burdi may be around longer than a typical Rule 5 pick

You have to be a pretty hardcore fan to know who Nick Burdi is. If you’re a loyal TPOP reader, you probably are, but I’ll excuse you if you need a refresher:

  • In December 2017, the Phillies selected Nick Burdi in the Rule 5 Draft from the Twins
  • They promptly traded Burdi to the Pirates for $500,000 in international slot money for the 2017-18 period
  • Burdi was recovering from a May 2017 Tommy John surgery at the time, so the Pirates were able to stash him on the 60-day DL
  • He made his minor league debut with the Pirates in July 2018 with the Bradenton Marauders, then made some cameo appearances with both Altoona and Indy before making his Major League debut in September
  • He pitched a whopping 1.1 innings over two appearances in September

At the time the Pirates traded for him, I loved the deal. I thought it was a creative use of their international slot money and a good way to pick up a potential late inning bullpen arm for very little money. I also liked that he could be stashed for most of the year on the 60-day DL and in the minors while rehabbing.

When a team selects a player in the Rule 5 draft, said player has to stay on the Major League roster for at least 90 days before they can be optioned down to the minors. With Burdi accruing 30 last September, that means he’ll have to be in Pittsburgh for essentially all of April and May before spending the rest of the season in Triple-A for development.

But that may not necessarily be Burdi’s path. Typically, I’m not in favor of Rule 5 picks. They’re usually on low-upside guys that every minor league system has. If you’re a rebuilding team, they’re good because you can get cheap talent for essentially free. But if you’re a contending team or one that has designs on contending, you’re tying up a roster spot that can be used on a more viable player.

Burdi, however, may not need to be treated like a Faberge egg. Sure, he’ll be getting only low leverage type of work (Pirates either way up or way down), but the Pirates bullpen is shaping up to be so strong at the back end that his services may not be needed all that much anyway. With Vazquez having the 9th on lockdown, Kela and Crick controlling the 7th and 8th, and Rodriguez as the strikeout fireman, the number of key innings is already spoken for by the best quartet in the NL Central. If Burdi was already going to be the seventh reliever on a 12-man pitching staff, he wasn’t going to work a ton in the first place.

And it’s not like there’s a lot of pressure coming from Indianapolis in terms of elite bullpen options. I think we’ve all seen enough of the Dovydas Neverauskas Experience. Clay Holmes is not anything extraordinary. Edgar Santana is out all year while recovering from his own Tommy John surgery. If you want to build a case for Aaron Slegers, I’ll listen I suppose. If Jesus Liranzo can guarantee he knows where the ball is going after it leaves his hand, I’m intrigued.

But Burdi has good stuff at present. Sure, it is a nanoscopic small size, but his pitch velocities and mix were intriguing. As per Statcast, Burdi’s four seamer came in at 96.6 mph, his sinker at 96.1, and his slider at 85.7. That is a power mix of pitches. Essentially, he’s combining Kyle Crick’s fastball velocity with Felipe Vazquez’s slider velocity. Here’s a GIF from Pitching Ninja showing you Burdi in Spring Training:

This does not mean that Burdi is a true nightmare combination of these two pitchers and destined for greatness. Burdi needs to refine his command and control. The same was said, however, of Kyle Crick while he was with the Giants and even upon his arrival here last year.

NIck Burdi has far more upside than a typical Rule 5 pick and, if properly harnessed, could add to the already-strong Pirates bullpen to create a devastating fifth head of the hydra.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

10 Comments on Nick Burdi May Be More Than A Typical Rule 5 Pick

  1. I loved Burdi at Louisville but I feel like he threw even harder back then. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. I bet he’ll stick with the Bucs.

    • Kevin Creagh // March 25, 2019 at 8:16 AM //

      I think he did throw harder. I also think he had very little control of where it was going.

  2. 127 Ks/23 BBs in 72.2 IP across his last 2 years at Louisville; not bad; he had a brother at Louisville right after him, Zack, who I think is in the White Sox system. I’ve always liked Nick so I’m glad the Pirates got him. He’ll end up closing somewhere if not for us.

  3. Ron Christman // March 25, 2019 at 9:30 AM //

    Last year at this time the Pirates left Bradenton wondering if they had enough relievers capable of getting more than two outs in an inning to get through a 9-inning game.

    This year national media is claiming they have the best bullpen in the National League and more than enough good bodies to fill the holes when they pop up.

    They made a smart choice with Burdi and are in position to let him mature.

    • Kevin Creagh // March 25, 2019 at 9:59 AM //

      Yeah, I’ve long been proposing that with the addition of Kela and the emergence of Crick/Rodriguez that they have the best quartet in the NL Central (at least). With Knebel going down in MIL and my general belief that MIL is going to regress, in general, I’m firmly of that belief. Looking around the National League, I’m hard pressed to come up with a better quartet at this point. Kimbrel could sway that depending on his landing spot, if in the NL.

      If Burdi breaks out, they would be right there with the Yankees for best bullpen in baseball for me.

  4. Burdi is a classic low-risk, high-reward guy. If he gives you evil effective gas in the 6th, that’s a beautiful thing to have. If he doesn’t figure out the command/control thing, you haven’t sacrificed a lot.

  5. Nice article Kevin

    Also he’s supposedly a very high character guy.

  6. I see where Liriano has made the team, for reasons which escape me at the moment. While I know that Burdi and Frankie were not in direct competition, it’s still one more spot that’s no longer available. I’d hate to think the Pirates are going to lose Burdi because they would prefer the veteranosity of Liriano and, say, Tyler Lyons.

    • Kevin Creagh // March 25, 2019 at 2:01 PM //

      I find it very hard to believe that the Pirates selected Burdi, hung with him through rehab and conditioning, brought him to PGH in September, then kept him over the winter, to jettison him now. Especially since he’s shown well in ST with 12 K in 8 IP (last I looked).

      In my mind, he was almost a lock before ST, barring injury or complete implosion. Neither of those has happened.

  7. Phillip C-137 // March 25, 2019 at 4:11 PM //

    My vote goes for keeping Burdi. He’s had a good ST and it boils down to the marginal difference between what he will do versus what someone else might do (be that positive or negative) for 2 months. Will he give up more runs than his replacement? Will his stuff “click” and he earns DEPENDABILITY status? Time will tell but signs are convincing me he should stay with the Big Club.

    Crick is the guy I’m more concerned about. He had a nice year in 2018, although between Aug 3 and Sept 4 he had 14 appearances and gave up a run in 7 of them. They gave him 5 days rest followed by 4 days rest and he pitched in 7 of the last 22 games. He’s had a statistically poor ST, what does this portend? I don’t know, but of the 4 late inning guys I think he’s got the best chance for being the weak link creating a need for someone else to step up.

    Guys finally figure “it” out and come out of nowhere to be studs and guys inexplicably “lose it” or suffer injuries. The Pirates are going to need at least 2 more guys in the pen to gain DEPENDABILITY status to be truly elite. (And IMO Liriano will eventually earn his way to mop-up man.)

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