Burnes’ fastball and slider are considered to be his best two pitches, and he also uses a curveball and changeup effectively from time to time as well. A pitcher with multiple weapons in his arsenal like Burnes is always going to be a valued commodity in a major league bullpen or rotation.
Coming into the 2018 season, 23-year-old Corbin Burnes was rated the #74 overall prospect by Baseball America. This was to be expected after his exceptional 2017 breakout season where he boasted the stingy ERA of 1.67 across both High-A and Double-A and compiling 140 strikeouts compared to just 36 walks. So, given these fantastic stats, it would be reasonable to assume that he would have continued success upon moving up to AAA Colorado Springs, right?
Maybe not so much.
Burnes’ ERA across 17 appearances and 13 starts in 2018 is a subpar 5.15. It is important to take pitcher stats with a grain of salt when they are pitching in Colorado Springs, however because of the high altitude that is notoriously arduous for any and all pitchers. The Colorado Rockies have a similar dilemma at the major league level. Inflated hitting stats, along with deflated pitching stats. Of note regarding Burnes though is that he has been considerably better pitching away from Colorado Springs, with an improved, albeit not spectacular ERA of 3.98. So it will be intriguing to see whether or not Burnes can get back to his 2017 form upon being called up by the Brewers this season.
A recent development in Burnes’ career made a call-up seem imminent and that is the shift from the rotation to the bullpen. This is a big adjustment for Burnes who had been considered a starter for his entire career prior to being asked to work in relief. Despite being moved to the bullpen for the time being to help the major league club, David Stearns and company still see Burnes as a future starter. But hey, most people expected Josh Hader to return to starting games as well, and baseball fans everywhere have all been enamored witnessing his incredible blossoming into an elite reliever. So however and wherever Burnes finds success is where he will most likely find a home; whether that is in the starting rotation or the bullpen.
In a perfect world, Corbin Burnes will become the right handed version of Josh Hader; an arm out of the bullpen that can give Craig Counsell several innings of effective work in high-leverage situations. That said, it would be unfair to expect Burnes to immediately get on Hader’s level, and a more realistic expectation is that he should be able to be a consistent weapon and perhaps make a spot start or two if need be. It remains to be seen what will become of the 2017 Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and the Milwaukee faithful will have to wait patiently to find out whether he can contribute positively this season and going forward. Another star could be brewing in Milwaukee…
Let’s see if he has what it takes.