The White Sox have a very fluid roster and farm system entering spring training next month due to the new direction of the team, but this bold prediction may be something to watch for in 2017.
The White Sox have far more question marks than answers as we approach the start of the 2017 season, but as part of our “Bold Predictions” series at The Loop Sports, I’m predicting that White Sox fans can expect to see Zack Burdi establish himself as a late-innings option in the White Sox bullpen.
Burdi, 21, was the White Sox 26th overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft this past June. The Downers Grove, IL native blew through the White Sox minor league system during the summer of 2016, before being shut down by the organization late in the summer, because he has reached the innings limit that they desired to keep him under in his first professional season.
Burdi made stops at Winston-Salem (Single-A), Birmingham (Double-A), and Charlotte (Triple-A) before being shut down for the season. Within those stops, Burdi pitched to a 1-0 record with a 3.32 ERA over the course of 37 innings pitched, while striking out 50 hitters over that span. It was reported that he even threw a 105-mph fastball in game last season.
Coming out of the draft Burdi was seen as a player that could very well be pitching at the major-league level in September of 2016, and there were rumblings last September that the White Sox were contemplating that move. In the end, wiser thought prevailed and the White Sox opted not to bring the youngster up in September to toss meaningless innings for a team without a hope of seeing the postseason.
Burdi will receive a non-roster invite to spring training next month, but has a very likely chance of breaking camp with the major league roster. There’s two scenario’s in which I beleive that Zack Burdi begins the season in Charlotte. The first being, an absolutely horrid Cactus League campaign this spring, prompting the White Sox to keep him in the minor league’s to work out the kinks before joining the major-league club in season. The second being, the White Sox prefer to keep Burdi down for no other reason than his service clock, and the ability to align Burdi with other White Sox top-prospects that they have acquired thus far in their rebuilding efforts.
If he doesn’t break camp with the White Sox, it’s more than likely to be related to the latter of the aforementioned reasoning, and not a performance or ability related issue.
The White Sox bullpen was horrid in 2016, from the long-relief guys all the way down the the ninth inning role. The White Sox bullpen had 72 save opportunities in 2016, converting 43 as a staff, and blowing a whopping 29 ballgames in the late innings. That’s a save conversion rate of just 60 percent, and in it’s simplest form, the White Sox late-inning relievers were only able to lock-down a late lead six out of every 10 times.
There’s plenty of opportunity for Burdi to make his way into a late-innings role this season if he is with the major-league club for a majority of the year. David Robertson is expected to be traded at some point between today, and the July non-waiver trade deadline, so that opens up the ninth inning role, regardless of performance issues within the bullpen.
Nate Jones, considering he isn’t packaged out of town as well, would likely be the default choice to assume the ninth inning role if, and when Robertson is traded, leaving the seventh or eighth inning wide open for the taking for Burdi.
Of course the entire theory behind this bold prediction is contingent upon the White Sox plans for the young flame-thrower, but if in fact he does see the major-leagues this year, his talent coupled with impending roster moves and a lack of existing talent in the bullpen could help Burdi solidify a late-innings role in the White Sox bullpen in 2017.