One expert says new Cleveland Indians pitcher Tanner Burns will be an average starter.
The Cleveland Indians were just one of six teams to come away from the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft with two selections.
They picked high school shortstop Carson Tucker at No. 23, and at 36, took college hurler Tanner Burns with the second-to-last pick in the first round.
Burns hails from Auburn, having stayed in-state to play college ball after being named Alabama’s Mr. Baseball in 2017.
Considering the Indians track record selecting college pitchers, more eyes than usual will probably be aimed to keeping tabs on Burns’ minor-league career.
As for his arc, The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote Burns could be an average major league pitcher. He didn’t elaborate, but I take that to mean a fourth or fifth starter. For what it’s worth, Law also called the pick of Tucker a reach with the Tribe’s first pick.
Burns throws consistently around 92-94 miles per hour, but can top out at 96. He also has two offspeed pitches in his repertoire.
But an average pitcher? Who knows and the Indians are currently the poster team for overlooked pitchers blowing out low expectations.
While Burns has already been pegged to have a mediocre career, you’ve got to take a look at what was being written about 2016 draft picks Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac.
That is if anything was being written at all! Civale was a third-round pick while Bieber was taken in the fourth round. Plesac was drafted in the 12th. I can guarantee you that nobody was bothering to make prognostications regarding the future of Plesac. While the Internat is a never-ending well of words, few keystrokes are afforded to prospects taken then.
As for Bieber, he’s the owner of a meteoric rise no one saw coming. He was in the big leagues by 2018 and the All-Star MVP by last July. He’s the future ace of the staff.
And what was said about his selection in 2016? An author for one website wrote the following:
"“I don’t see an out pitch and so he is going to struggle a bit to be a big league starter.”"
Another opinion from the same website:
"“He has average stuff across the board but he is another guy the Indians are banking on because of his clean delivery, command and intangibles…The ceiling here is a fifth starter and the floor is a quad-A guy who offers excellent depth. “"
This is not to nitpick on the writers. Heck, I wasn’t pounding my fists on the table for Bieber back then. As bloggers, we’re paid to have an opinion. A lot of times, I’m wrong, as you’ll find buried in the wastelands of the interweb my advocacy for Mitch Trubisky in the 2017 NFL draft.
Rather, the point is you truly don’t know what you have until a player gets into the organization and pitches against real opponents over the course of a couple years.
Teams gamble on traits, and to the credit of these writers, both talked about how Bieber and Civale had excellent command and possessed the ability to throw strikes. These characteristics help up and was a big reason why both shot through the minors.
Baseball America’s report card for that draft mentioned the same attributes, but nowhere in the column did the Prospect Bible mention the selection of Zach Plesac in the 12th round.
That’s probably because BA didn’t even bother to rank him. Perfect Game had him ranked as the 320th prospect. He was taken 362 overall.
With analytics dominating so much of sports these days, especially in the scouting process, the MLB Draft seems to be one of the few places where things that aren’t supposed to happen, actually happen and Bieber, Civale and Plesac are a testament to that.
As for Burns, he’ll get more of an extended look, especially because of his first-round status. And considering some 70 percent of first-round picks reach the big leagues, we’ll hopefully see him at The Corner sooner than later.