One of the more concerning issues with the 2018 Chicago White Sox has been the health of their young prospects. The team has seen the development of several of their highly-touted minor leaguers delayed to injuries whether nagging or extensive. Many of the players listed on the White Sox’s Top 30 prospect list have either missed time this year to injuries or are still sidelined due to injuries.
One of the more significant injuries that has flown under the radar has been the injury to young reliever Zack Burdi.
Burdi suffered his injury midway through the 2017 season after throwing a pitch and he felt pain in his throwing elbow right away. It was later revealed that he had suffered a UCL tear to his arm which required Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament. The surgery was a success and he is expected to make full recovery from the injury, but valuable time and development have been lost due to the recovery.
The White Sox selected Burdi in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft with one of their three selections in the top 50 of the draft. The other two players selected included catcher Zack Collins and starting pitcher Alec Hansen. It was the Burdi selection that many draft pundits were high on as many believed that he would be the first of three to make it to the majors. Many scouts projected him as the White Sox’s future closer as he featured a 100mph fastball, a hard slider, and a good changeup in his arsenal of pitches.
Last season, Burdi spent all of last season at Triple-A Charlotte as he appeared in 22 games recording seven saves and 51 strikeouts over 33 innings pitched. The original goal for him was to spend the most of the 2017 season pitching in Charlotte and appear in the majors as a September call-up. When the injury occurred in mid-July, it cost him two and a half months of development and possibly invaluable major league experience with no pressure to perform right away.
Heading into the 2018 season, Burdi is expected to miss most if not all of the season recovering from the surgery and most like won’t make his major league debut until late in 2019.
It’s unfortunate because with the current state of the team’s bullpen, Burdi would most likely have made the roster to start the season and could have very well been the team’s closer. The White Sox have blown four saves this season and their bullpen has lost the lead after the seventh inning seven times. In the second year of rebuild, he would have been given ample experience to develop at the Major League level.
The White Sox currently have another young, hard-throwing reliever at Charlotte in Thyago Vieira. This past week, MLB Pipeline named Vieira as their reliever for their Team of the Week honors as he made three appearances allowing no runs, no hits, and struck out seven over four innings.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 14, 2018
If he is able to keep up his stellar performance, the White Sox could look to promote him sooner rather than later. One only can wonder what the excitement level would be for fans seeing both Burdi and Vieira in the bullpen.
With the high level of prospects, the White Sox have right now, it is understandable how the team’s top relief prospect can be overlooked. Players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Michael Kopech dominant the headlines for their potential, but every successful team needs a dominant closer. The White Sox may have that in Burdi, but will have to wait for their answer for almost another year in a year where the situation would be perfect for a young reliever.