Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Burdi, Reed, Pave The Path Less Traveled

The 2015 Major League Baseball season wasn't supposed to go the way it has for the Minnesota Twins for many different reasons. Most notable, is the fact that Paul Molitor's club is in playoff position a year before they were expected to be. Surprisingly, there are a few expected contributors that are missing from the fold however. Maybe most glaringly of the bunch are two relievers, Nick Burdi and Jake Reed.

Minnesota selected both Burdi and Reed with 2014 draft picks. Burdi was taken in the 2nd round out of the University of Louisville, while Reed went to the Twins in the 5th out of Oregon. Both players put together solid debut seasons, and Reed then went on to impress during the Arizona Fall League. With a good amount of momentum rolling behind them, both players looked like a 2015 MLB splash could be in the cards.

Until it wasn't.

Burdi's first outing of the season for Double-A Chattanooga was of the four run blowup variety, grabbing just two outs. By June 25, he owned a 5.93 ERA and was allowing opposing hitters a .775 OPS off of him. For Reed, things weren't much prettier. Three outings in, he allowed his first run. It snowballed to a 5.56 ERA and a .281/.366/.388 slash line by Aug 6th. Both players were then met with even more adversity.

The Lookouts ultimately gave Burdi the hook first, with him being demoted at the end of June. Reed would stay with the Double-A club until early August, before assuming the same fate. Now being sent down to High-A Fort Myers, a level both seemed above, confidence needed to be regained.

Pitching in his first game of 2015 for Fort Myers on July 2nd, Burdi registered four strikeouts in two innings pitched. After 13 games a level below, he had compiled a 2.25 ERA, a 13.05 K/9, and baffled opposing hitters to the tune of a .179/.208/.239 ERA. Since, he has been promoted back to Double-A Chattanooga, and owns a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings.

Still down at Fort Myers, Reed has found himself as well. Having skipped over the level a season ago, Reed was getting his first taste of the Florida State League. Now with 11.1 innings under his belt, the former Duck looks every bit as dominating as he was once billed. A 0.00 ERA with a 7/1 K/BB ratio, Reed is overpowering hitters allowing just a .211/.225/.211 slash line.

Now with the season set to wrap up, the next hurdle has appeared for the two flamethrowers. Both have been assigned to take part in the Arizona Fall League as representatives for the Twins. Playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Reed will be repeating the league after an impressive 2014 showing (0.71 ERA in 12.2 IP). Burdi will be making his first appearance.

As Reed did last year, both pitchers can use the next challenge as a new opportunity. Despite being something they both likely believed they were past, a strong Fall League showing, could have heightened 2016 implications. With a Twins bullpen that will no doubt undergo a significant amount of turnover, candidates will need to emerge.

Both Jake Reed and Nick Burdi continue to profile as key cogs in the Twins bullpen for years to come. Possessing high velocity arms, and strikeout stuff that has not been synonymous with the Twins for quite some time (or ever), the excitement level is there. Although 2015 didn't turn out to be what was once expected, a refresh button has appeared.

Having had the opportunity to interview both Reed and Burdi in the past, betting against them a second time around doesn't seem like a good practice. These are two names you may want to get familiar with. With the Arizona Fall League as their proving ground, the next step could be within reach.

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