In what might have been his final amateur start, Corbin Burnes took the loss in Friday’s NCAA Regional opener against Coastal Carolina in the Raleigh regional. But the righthander—No. 57 in the BA500—showed promise with three pitches in the losing effort.
Burnes has had a slow and steady rise, and he's been a huge part of the Gaels' rise under head coach Eric Valenzuela. During his freshman year, Burnes scuffled, posting a 6.18 ERA over 43 2/3 innings as a starter and reliever. He showed progress as a sophomore, earning a regular starting role and pitching to a 3.74 ERA, while also striking out more than a batter per inning and he posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio near 3-to-1.
Last summer, Burnes pitched for Orleans of the Cape Cod League. He showed premium stuff in the summer, and established himself as a must-follow prospect in the amateur scouting community.
This spring, Burnes has shown the same low- to mid-90s fastball and elite breaking ball that catapulted him onto prospect lists, but his changeup has also been a weapon for him. On Friday afternoon, he induced swings-and-misses with all three pitches.
Against Coastal Carolina, Burnes showed feel for his changeup down and away from lefthanded hitters. The pitch flashed fading action and mimicked the movement of his fastball, which showed armside run when he located it away from lefties. His breaking ball broke exceptionally late with vertical shape early in the game, flashing plus often, but looped upward out of his hand and showing trackable break a few times later on in the outing.
As the game wore on in the humid North Carolina air with sparse clouds rarely blocking the sun, Burnes clearly (and understandably) tired out. The Chanticleers worked counts against him and forced him to pitch in the strike zone. In the fourth and fifth inning, Burnes lacked consistency with the timing of his front side, opening up or deliberately closing off his landing, and lacking pinpoint control as a result.
At times, Burnes' mechanics slowed down for his offspeed pitches on Friday, and Coastal Carolina had much more success against him the second and third time through the order.
One scout who saw Burnes on the Cape questioned his stamina, saying that he had seen the righthander's stuff back up after the early innings.
While Burnes shows the stuff necessary for a starting role, there is some legitimate concern about whether he'll be able to succeed as a starter. The uncertainty of his ultimate role is what prevents him from being in the same discussion as some of the college righthanders ahead of him in our rankings.
He has a chance to pitch with three average-or-better offerings, but he'll have to continue getting stronger to get to his stuff more consistently at the next level.