April 19, 2013
The Situation: After an impressive 127 2/3 innings with the Brewers in 2012, right-hander Mike Fiers has fallen flat on his face to start the 2013 season. As a result, the Brewers will give fellow 2009 draftee Hiram Burgos a try in the rotation. Burgos will be called up in time to make his major-league debut against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
Background: A native of Puerto Rico, Burgos was drafted by the Brewers in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. The then-21-year old product of Bethune-Cookman College scuffled to a 5.62 ERA in his professional debut with rookie-level Helena. After showing significant improvement in a return trip to Helena in 2010, Burgos was promoted to Low-A, where he posted a 4.48 ERA in 74 1/3 innings split between the rotation and bullpen. Burgos struggled again in 2011, sporting a 4.89 ERA in 22 High-A starts and allowing 142 hits in just 119 2/3 innings.
At age 24, Burgos returned to High-A in 2012, and his career began to take off with a 0.87 ERA in six starts and one relief appearance. The Brewers quickly promoted him to Double-A for 13 starts and Triple-A for another eight starts. All told, Burgos’ 2012 campaign—for which he won Milwaukee’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award—resulted in a 1.95 ERA, fewer than seven hits per nine innings, and over eight strikeouts per nine. The Brewers added Burgos to the 40-man roster over the winter, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA in three Triple-A starts to begin this season.
Scouting Report: Despite dominant numbers in 2012, Burgos’ scouting report comes up short of a strong big-league projection. His best attribute is his ability to locate a fringe-average fastball that scrapes 91-92 mph. He will consistently work in the 88-90 mph range with at least average command and the potential for plus command down the line. Burgos is able to play off his fastball well, mixing in a cutter, changeup, curveball and even a slider. His changeup is often his best secondary offering, but it still doesn’t rate as a plus pitch.
Burgos shows an ability to throw strikes with all five pitches, and he has an advanced ability to mix and match his entire arsenal to keep hitters off balance. He’s calm and collected on the mound, with an intelligence usually reserved for far more experienced pitchers. Despite his command projection and cerebral approach to pitching, his lack of an average fastball or any plus secondary offering limits his ceiling. If everything breaks perfectly, Burgos could fill the fifth slot in a big-league rotation.
Immediate Big-League Future: Burgos has a window to seize the fifth spot in the Brewers starting rotation for the remainder of the season. With Fiers unable to continue his surprising run from 2012 and the shortage of other big-league-ready options, the job could belong to Burgos if he pitches at even a passable level. As the season progresses, he could have to fight off the higher ceilings of Johnny Hellweg and Tyler Thornburg, but for now, the job appears to be his for the taking. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: While Burgos has underwhelming stuff and isn't likely to have much impact for fantasy, we've been surprised by unheralded Brewers prospects before. As Mark mentioned, Burgos and Mike Fiers were members of the same draft class, although Burgos was scuffling as a 24-year-old in High-A as recently as the end of 2011.
With Fiers struggling and the Brewers having little pitching depth in the upper minors, Burgos looks like he could run with this spot if he pitches well. And with a few decent match-ups to start his major-league run, he is worth grabbing in NL-only leagues immediately. In FAAB, I'd throw a $3-5 on him if you need another starter. However, it would be surprising if Burgos had an ERA below 4.25 or recorded enough strikeouts to make him an option in mixed leagues. —Bret Sayre
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProspectMark