A dramatic jump in fastball velocity helped our next prospect jump up to 28th on my pre-2017 Top 32 list. And although there have been bumps along the way, he’s righted the ship and remains a promising young pitching prospect landing at number 36 this year.
No.36, LHP Brock Burke, 21 yrs old
Born: Aug 4th, 1996 in Chicago, IL
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs Bats/Throws: L/L
Twitter handle: @BrockBurke1
Twitter profile statement: Professional Baseball Player Tampa Bay Rays #blessed
Baseball America Rankings
- N/A, however, when asked which prospects were under rated, BA’s Vincent Lara-Cinisomo responded with Burke included in his list and offered the following interesting statement “Bowling Green LHP Brock Burke, who has been comped to Cole Hamels”
- It was the 2nd time Vincent pointed to Burke, the first being in May when he pointed to 5 guys we all should know and offered the following “Burke has been compared to Cole Hamels as a long, lanky lefty. His fastball has topped out at 94 mph, but commonly sits 89-92. He is difficult to hit because of some deception, but he tends to open up early, causing inconsistent control.”
And who could blame him when Burke was doing the following,
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 18
- Low: 49
Brock Burke: Abilities
- Fastball which consistently works in the lower 90s, but can reach 95 MPH consistently
- Works aggressively, with deception, and exploits the lower portion of the zone
- Abilities notes: I’ve happily been in the Burke fan club for a while now, seeing him as one to watch (along with fellow LHP Genesis Cabrera — discussed here). Earlier we commented on one of his weaknesses: “he noted not having the stamina to work deep into games in 2016, so the main thing to watch in 2017 will be the continued development of his off-speed stuff now that he has the velocity and the ability to lengthen his starts to 6+ innings while remaining effective.”
- Well, Burke worked on those deficits, and described his progress as follows: “I haven’t really had a velo jump,” explained Burke. “Last year, after they fixed my mechanics, I could bump 95. This year I’m more consistently 90-92, and bumping 95 more often, instead of being all over the place. Before, I’d be down to 87-90 at times. Now I’m more consistent with ranges, and my velo isn’t dropping at the end of games.”
That’s what we wanted to see and hear, now we get to see where that takes him.
Joined the Rays by way of....
- The 2014 MLB draft 96th overall which had a slot value of $544,900, which indicates the Rays exceeded that by $352,600, which is fairly significant. Ryan Henderson was one of the scouts who spent time evaluating Burke (now the Rays’ Scouting Supervisor).
- He was selected one pick ahead of Cleveland’s first baseman Bobby Bradley and in the same round as Rockies pitching prospect Sam Howard, Pirates outfield prospect Jordan Luplow, Cubs catching prospect Mark Zagunis, and Marlins third base prospect Brian Anderson, making for a very talented and successful round of the draft.
Latest Transaction: Stone Crabs activated Burke from the 7-day DL July 10th, 2017
Note - Burke hit a bump along the road (which is good from a growth standpoint) after his promotion to +A with most of the damage being isolated to 4 of his 13 A+ outings.
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- Burke was the first Evergreen High School Alum drafted player since Kevin Kouzmanoff (2003), and his HS highlights include times when “He struck out 15 in a no-hitter against Westminster on March 19 and followed that with a 20-strikeout performance at Coors Field against Eaglecrest on April 29. In all, he threw four one-hitters to go with the no-no in 2014.”
- From the time he was selected by the Rays, Burke has added 40 lbs to his frame, going from a reported 165 lbs to 205 lbs.
- Dominated enough in 2017 to earn a feature piece from Fangraph’s David Laurila (must read)
- Joined many of his BG team mates in 2017’s MWL all-star game,
- Burke and Roel Ramirez are both roommates and close friends off the field
- An encouraging quote from Burke is this one, which points to where he likes to work and why,
“Some of the guys on our team — those Driveline guys, the high spin rate guys — work up in the zone,” said Burke. “It’s not really in my repertoire to stay up there. I mostly try to stay down in the zone and get ground balls, although that hasn’t happened nearly as much this year.”
- Once he got settled into A+, Burke made an impact, as this quote indicates, “Burke surrendered just four hits over six shutout innings, striking out six. It was the first time in five starts with Charlotte that he completed five innings.”
Brock Burke 2017
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Stats Notes: When looking at his post-DL A+ starts (10 starts), Burke managed 7.03 K/9, 1.71 BB/9, 1.25 Whip and a .267 AVG against. He improved on that over his last 5 starts to 8.26 K/9, 1.27 BB/9, 1.16 Whip, and a .254 AVG against.
Burke also averaged 5.3 innings per start in 2017, up from 4.7 in 2016.
Interesting Comparisons: Cole Hamels & J.A. Happ
As Vincent believes Burke and Hamels have a lot in common,as noted above, I’ll include a few similarities here. However, Hamels had many injury issues coming up through the Phillies system, making any comparison through this point difficult. Therefore, I’ll also include a comparison to J.A. Happ, another successful tall (6’5”) and sturdy (205 lbs) LHP.
The similarities between Hamels and Burke to this point include the fact that both grew into their bodies quite a bit after being selected (Hamels was 6’2” 185 lbs when selected by the Phillies and grew into 6’4” 205 lbs, which is exactly where Burke is today), and both were working their FB in the 89 to 92 MPH range after being drafted before adding significant velocity.
Both Hamels and Burke had decent secondary offerings including change ups, although Hamels’ was much better, being rated as MLB ready very early in his career.
And finally, both gave up very few HRs and normally earned a high percentage of GB while allowing few walks.
While the Hamels comparison will remain intriguing going forward, the one that may be most apt today is Blue Jays starter J.A Happ. Burke may give up an inch to Happ, but they performed similarly at the A+ level in 2006:
Happ A+ 2006: 13 GS, 80 IP, 319 TBF, 8.66 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, 68.6% LOB
Burke A+ 2017: 13 GS, 66 IP, 286 TBF, 6.68 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9, 60.5% LOB
The main difference, aside from a lower K/9 rate for Burke, is that Happ was 23 yrs old at the time while Burke was only just turning 21 yrs old (August 4th). That’s what makes Burke’s performance stand out a bit more and indicates that he may be ahead of the curb for his age.
And just as with Burke, one of the main tools Happ had within his arsenal (noted often by BA) was his deception, which they once noted as “his best pitch”. Burke receives rave reviews for his deception abilities, and it should serve him well if that continues when he heads to AA and beyond.
Notes for 2018 and beyond
When you hear about a 20 year old lefty who can effectively work at 95 MPH late into games and continues to extend his outings, you pay attention. When you add in the fact that he rarely gives up home runs, or extra-base hits for that matter, and also maintains low walk rates at that age, that REALLY gets your attention.
It’s somewhat of an enigma that more people aren’t fully on board with Burke yet, but the few struggles he’s had in A+ seem to have stalled what looked to be some momentum. Some need to see dominance in terms of Ks to get onboard, and some question the quality of his secondary offerings.
The good thing for Burke is that he’s already ahead of the curve, so if the Rays do have him begin the year in A+, it allows him to get continue to build his confidence up before moving on to AA. Having said that, the end-year efforts he put forward combined with a strong spring could push him up to AA soon.
What ever happens to begin the season, Burke will likely end the 2018 season in AA, putting him on track to be within the conversation for a Rays call-up in either 2019 or 2020. With what he has in the tool-shed already, he’ll make himself a good pen option, but if he continues to develop as many expect (including myself), he could push his way into the rotation.
For his immediate future, 2018 is the year I believe could see him leap onto everyone’s radar as he sets himself up among the top Rays prospect by end of season.
Brock Burke: Spotlight Videos
Oddly enough, I could not find any video of Burke available to share aside from these two, neither of which show him throwing. If you have some to share, please feel free to share the links in the comments.
Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects
- #37 - SS Zach Rutherford
- #38 - RHP Hunter Wood
- #39 - C Brett Sullivan
- #40 - CF Jake Fraley
- #41 - LHP Travis Ott
- #42 - RHP Mikey York
- #43 - RP Brandon Koch
- #44 - UT Luis Rengifo
- #45 - RP Ian Gibaut
- #46 - P Jhonleider Salinas
- #47 - INF Taylor Walls
- #48 - C Chris Betts
- #49 - 2B Jonathan Aranda
- #50 - RP Kevin Gadea