Saturday, March 14, 2015

Two Relievers Racing To The Pros

The Minnesota Twins are well underway in their Grapefruit League schedule for 2015. With already nine games completed (one ending in a tie), the squad has gotten plenty of work in. While the entirety of the 40 man roster, as well as a few non-roster invites, put in time during big league games, there is plenty of action taking place on the minor league side of things.

Earlier this week, the Twins kicked off their first practice for minor league spring training. With the bulk of the players either staying put in Fort Myers, or headed to one of either Chattanooga or Rochester, there are plenty of battles being sorted through. When it comes to pitching, the Twins may have no deeper area on their roster than in the bullpen. However, two 2014 draft picks are focused on getting their hats in the ring.

Both Nick Burdi and Jake Reed have their sights set on surfacing at Target Field in 2015. Burdi, a second round pick out of the University of Louisville, is a right-handed thrower that can routinely hit triple digits. Projecting most likely as a late innings option, or even a closer, Burdi should be someone that figures into the Twins bullpen for years to come. Reed was a 5th round selection by the Twins out of the University of Oregon. Utilizing great stuff and being able to overpower hitters as a middle-reliever, Reed has what it takes to stick at the big league level.

In 2014, Burdi split 20 games between Cedar Rapids (13) and Fort Myers (7). He compiled a 2.66 ERA and a 16.8 K.9. Outside of a poor first outing, Burdi was virtually unhittable, and his numbers could have been even more impressive. Likely slated to begin at Single-A Fort Myers, Burdi has the ability to blitz the system much like starter Jose Berrios. His 4.4 BB/9 mark isn't where the Twins would like it to be, but is something that can be improved upon in 2015. Burdi will be given a very real opportunity to pitch out of the Twins bullpen sometime by the end of the summer.

Although not as hard throwing as Burdi, Reed was extremely impressive in his own right. Spending the bulk of his time pitching for Cedar Rapids, Reed was impressive across his 20 games of action. Owning a 0.29 ERA giving up only one earned run across 31.0 IP, Reed was nearly flawless. His 11.3 K/9 against his 0.3 BB/9 was a mark that rivaled only Phil Hughes major league record breaking season. Following up the season pitching in the Arizona Fall League, Reed picked up right where he left off. Proving virtually unhittable once again going up against some of the best prospects in baseball, has to have Twins pitching coach Neil Allen salivating. Reed, like Burdi, should be given an opportunity to see Target Field sometime around September.

Minnesota went with pitching during the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. Eight of the first ten selections made by the organization contribute on the mound. While Nick Gordon, the Twins hopefully shortstop of the future, may be the cream of the draft crop, no one has been better than Reed and Burdi. 

As the bullpen is constructed throughout the spring training schedule, the Twins will have some tough decisions to make. There are plenty more options than there are spots on the roster, and Paul Molitor will have to be choosy when deciding who goes north. While neither Jake Reed nor Nick Burdi will be amongst the selections, you can bet they are getting their work in on the back fields in the shadows of Hammond Stadium.

When the calendar turns from August to September, and the Twins find themselves in a position of competition looking for a fresh boost to their pen, there should be little doubt who gets the call. Both Reed and Burdi are on the fast track towards doing big things at the next level, and the early returns suggest there is no reason to dull the hype.