Baseball America's latest mock draft is out, and it has a...well, frankly, an odd pick lined up for the Red Sox: hard-throwing relief pitcher Zack Burdi out of the University of Louisville.
So here's the thing: Baseball America suggests the Red Sox could draft Burdi in order to have him immediately help out the MLB bullpen. I think we should put a full stop on that idea. The Red Sox aren't in significant need of bullpen help. If they would like another reliever, they could also just go out and get a more proven arm for a price that likely comes in well shy of the equivalent of the #12 overall pick.
So that leaves Burdi to sink or swim on the merits of his long-term value, and frankly, I think he sinks, at least below Boston's spot.
What he does have is certainly flashy. A triple-digit fastball that he can throw for strikes, combined with a changeup and slider that have gotten positive reviews. Fairly clean mechanics, albeit with a high-effort delivery. These are the makings of a very good pitcher.
It's just that most don't seem to think he's a starting pitcher, including his college team. And there's no reason the Red Sox should be using their #12 pick on a guy destined for relief no matter how advanced he is. Sure, when the team drafts starters like, say, Matt Barnes, there's every chance they end up in the bullpen down the line. But that's not what you hope for, and going in on a guy with your sights set low just seems like a waste when we're talking about drafting in the top-15.
There is the possibility that the Red Sox do believe that Burdi is a starter, in which case he kind of fits Dave Dombrowski's perfect profile as a hard-throwing righty. And it's possible that's part of why Baseball America thinks they might take him. But realistically this begs the question: if Burdi is a starter with a 100 MPH fastball along with two other pitches and ready for the major leagues right now, why is he falling all the way to #12? That's a top-5 talent you're describing right there.
I just don't see this both happening and working out well. There aren't that many players who profile better than Burdi if he's seen as a starter, meaning a good portion of the 11 other teams that draft before the Red Sox would have to determine incorrectly that Burdi isn't a worthwhile gamble in the rotation before them. The scenario where the Red Sox actually find a frontline starter in Burdi is one where they're the smartest guys in the room. While that would certainly be fantastic, if they were to draft him, Occam's Razor would dictate that they simply reached big time for a guy who should probably go much later in the first round, or possibly even in the second.
On the plus side, if they do draft Burdi, the downside isn't all that low. This guy seems very likely to at least be an MLB-quality reliever. Perhaps even a good one. But if his ceiling is also quite high, he just seems highly unlikely to come near it. If you hear his name come June 9th, it's not a reason for outright despair. But don't go getting too excited about the possibility of the team's next ace, because the chances of that seems fairly low.