- Full name Sean Richard Burnett
- Born 09/17/1982 in Dunedin, FL
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 185 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Wellington
- Debut 05/30/2004
Drafted in the 1st round (19th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000 (signed for $1,650,000).
View Draft ReportIt's rare for a high school team to produce first-round picks in back-to-back years, but Burnett should follow in the footsteps of Bobby Bradley, the eighth overall selection in 1999. Bradley has been outstanding in his first full year in the Pirates system, and scouts say Burnett should also succeed immediately. While he doesn't have outstanding raw stuff, Burnett is polished for a high school pitcher, as reflected by his 10-0, 0.81 record with 97 strikeouts in 60 innings. With pinpoint control and an excellent changeup, he's been compared to a young Tom Glavine. He did not throw with the same velocity late in the year as he did early, dropping to the high 80s and likely dropping him into the second half of the first round. Like most of South Florida's top prospects, he has committed to Miami.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Pirates drafted Burnett a year after making his high school teammate Bobby Bradley a first-rounder. While Bradley has yet to get past Class A because of a variety of arm problems, Burnett has excelled. He was the Eastern League's 2003 pitcher of the year. More impressive than his stuff, Burnett has outstanding control and keeps the ball in the park. His best pitch is a changeup that falls off the table. He also throws a good curveball and a slider that he picked up in 2002. Burnett's other pitches offset that his fastball sits in the 85-88 mph range. His low strikeout rate hasn't hurt him yet, but it could be a factor when he reaches the majors. Because of his slight build, stamina will always be a question. Burnett missed the EL playoffs with a sore elbow but returned to pitch in instructional league. As a lefty who induces ground balls, Burnett seems to be a perfect fit for PNC Park. He figures to move into the rotation after spending 2004 in Triple-A.
The Pirates selected Burnett in the first round of the 2000 draft from Wellington Community High, a year after they took righthander Bobby Bradley in the first round from the same school. Burnett has been Pittsburgh's minor league pitcher of the year each of the past two seasons and was the high Class A Carolina League's pitcher of the year in 2002. His ERA last year was second in the minor leagues behind Bubba Nelson of the Braves. Bradley has improved the velocity on his heavy fastball to the point that it hit 93 mph in the Futures Game last year, though it sits more comfortably at 88-89. He also has become more willing to throw his fastball inside to hitters. Bradley's best pitch is a Tom Glavine-like changeup that hitters continually beat into the ground. He also has a good slider. Burnett doesn't have overpowering velocity, which sometimes limits him in situations when he needs a strikeout. He's also on the smallish side, raising mild concerns about his durability. Burnett mastered Class A in his teens and now will go to try Double-A Altoona. He's on track to take a spot in the major league rotation in 2005.
Burnett has followed Bobby Bradley over the past two years. Burnett was a junior and the No. 2 starter and Bradley was a senior and the No. 1 starter when they pitched Wellington Community High to the Florida Class 6-A state title in 1999. Bradley was the Pirates' first-round pick in 1999 and Burnett went in the first round to Pittsburgh the following year. He was the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year in 2001. Like Bradley, Burnett has a good feel for pitching and outstanding mound presence. His best pitch is a changeup that he disguises well. It also has late tumbling action. His fastball generally reaches 88 mph, but he can get it as high as 91 mph after adding 15 pounds of muscle. Burnett wore down at the end of the 2001 season and pitched sparingly in instructional league. That was only natural for an 18-year-old in his first full season of pro ball. He has the beginnings of a good curveball but needs to tighten its rotation. Burnett has made a seamless adjustment into pro ball and his next step is to show he can get more advanced hitters out on a regular basis. He'll get that chance in 2002 at high Class A Lynchburg.
Burnett followed in the footsteps of Bobby Bradley, his close friend. Burnett was a standout pitcher at Wellington (Fla.) High last spring and the Pirates' first-round pick, after Bradley was their first-round choice in 1999 after leading Wellington to the Florida Class 6-A title. Burnett received a $1.65 million signing bonus. He is also like Bradley in that he doesn't possess an overpowering fastball but succeeds with outstanding secondary pitches, good command and a great understanding of pitching. Burnett has an advanced changeup for a young pitcher and consistently spots it on the outside corner of the plate, a la Tom Glavine. He also has a fine curveball and plenty of intangibles, with a fierce competitiveness and great poise. His fastball tops out at 87-88 mph, below average in an era when seemingly everyone throws 90-plus. Other than that, he only lacks professional experience. The Pirates envision Bradley and Burnett forming a dynamic righty-lefty duo at the top of their rotation for many years. Burnett likely will start off with Hickory this season, putting him on pace to get the major leagues in 2005. He has the potential to get there sooner.
Minor League Top Prospects
Burnett was consistent through most of 2003 and was named EL pitcher of the year, thanks to his feel for his craft and a darting fastball that makes up for what it lacks in velocity with good life. He also battles hitters with a variety of sliders and a deceptive changeup. "He knows how to pitch," Machemer said. "That guy will come right at you. He'll paint the black. He's one of those guys you love to hate." Though Burnett led the EL in victories, there were some red flags. Some managers wondered if his stuff was good enough to get major league hitters out. He also was shut down late in the season with elbow soreness.
As the Pirates' 2001 minor league pitcher of the year, Burnett was anointed as the Hillcats' ace--and he rarely disappointed. A lefthander with a 91 mph fastball and the league's best changeup, the 19-year-old did his part to help create a winning attitude on the field. "He has a fastball in the 90s, an outstanding curveball and command, which is rare at this level," Winston-Salem manager Razor Shines said. "That's why I think he can pitch in the big leagues at 21 years old." Of all the pitchers to come out of Wellington (Fla.) Community High in recent years, including fellow first-round picks Bobby Bradley (Pirates) and Justin Pope (Cardinals), Burnett is the most advanced. He gave up more than three earned runs in just two of his 26 regular-season starts, and batters found it difficult to drive the ball in the air against him because he pitches down in the strike zone. He surrendered just four homers in 155 innings.
Excuse Pirates brass and Crawdads if they called this show Bobby Bradley II. Not only is Burnett a lefthanded mirror image of Hickory's star pitcher from 2000, he's also good pals with his former teammate at Wellington (Fla.) Community High. Burnett used his three-pitch arsenal to dominate SAL batters at age 18. He isn't overpowering, with a fastball around 90 mph, but his curveball is outstanding and he's a bulldog. His learned approach and competitive nature make the fastball more effective, and Burnett's real strength is location. "When he got into trouble, which wasn't very often, he knew what he was doing out there," Pino said. "He didn't lose his composure under pressure."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the Eastern League in 2003
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the Carolina League in 2002
- Rated Best Control in the Carolina League in 2002
- Rated Best Breaking Pitch in the Carolina League in 2002