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Ambiorix Burgos, Relief Pitcher?

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly talked about four additions the Royals made to their 40-man roster. Of the four, the additions of Mark Teahen and Justin Huber were seemingly no-brainers, but the team also added pitchers Devon Lowery and Ambiorix Burgos, preventing them from being popped in this month's Rule 5 draft. It was only recently that I'd even heard of Burgos for the first time, but it turns out he's a guy a baseball nut such as myself should've known of a long time ago. His reported stuff and eye-popping strikeout rate at age 20 inspired me to write about him on November 19. For those of you who missed that day's entry, here's what I wrote about him:
Ambiorix Burgos is the most intriguing player the Royals chose to protect. He's intriguing for the same reason Griffin's going to intrigue other clubs (a high-octane fastball and plus-breaking stuff), but unlike Griffin, Burgos has actually performed. His strikeout rate was an unbelievable 11.58 in 2004, and while his command needs a lot of work, he's still on track to be a very good major league pitcher. After all, control problems aren't unusual for 20-year-olds with blazing fastballs. If Burgos can cut his walk rate in half over the next two seasons, he'll be mentioned as one of the ten best pitching prospects in baseball. He's probably the only pitcher the Royals have in the minor leagues who has the potential to be a Johan Santana kind of great.
The only part of that paragraph I halfway regret writing is the comparison to Johan Santana, since Burgos, at 20, could take any one of a number of different paths in his baseball career. However, there's no question that he has the potential to dominate, given his 11.33 K/9 rate in 174 minor league innings. Pitchers with Burgos' stuff are extremely rare, so in my opinion, it's extremely vital for his team to maximize the number of innings he provides by grooming him to be a starting pitcher. The Royals apparently don't see him that way, though, and seem dead-set on him being a short reliever when he makes it to the majors.

Unless the Royals are planning on using the old Earl Weaver strategy, which placed an emphasis on allowing young to-be starting pitchers to get their feet wet in low-leverage situations out of the bullpen, I view this plan for Burgos to be a waste of a potentially dominant pitcher. There are concerns about the inconsistency of his slider and his lack of a third pitch, but can the Royals not give him some time to work on that slider and develop a useful changeup or curve?

My point is that the Royals owe it to every pitcher in their organization to allow them to determine what they can and can't do. If Burgos proves he can't hack it as a starting pitcher because of a lack of endurance or a lack of command, fine. After all, many dominant closers were once failed starting pitchers. It's just a premature decision they've seemed to make here, and it's one that I hope they reverse in the near future.

But it took Minnesota about a year and a half to remove Santana from their bullpen and insert him as a starting pitcher, so maybe there's hope here. The closer Burgos ends up like him, the better the Royals will be.

Other stuff ...

  • Similar to last weekend, I went to SMS basketball games on Friday and Saturday night. The Bears hosted their annual Price Cutter Classic, a four-team tournament they won by picking up victories in both games. One was pretty (an 88-52 buttkicking of Youngstown State), and the other was brutally ugly (a 64-51 win over Arkansas-Little Rock). The win over UALR was a defensive struggle to say the least, with the score being 4-0 Bears with 15 minutes left in the first half. I've never seen shoddier basketball in my life, as both teams were taking horrible shots and predictably missing them (badly).

    However, the Bears quickly improved in the second half, gaining momentum when Blake Ahearn nailed a three-point shot from 30 feet out and Drew Richards threw down a thunderous dunk. It ended up being good times, because a win's a win, and the Bears are now 4-1 with two more games left on the homestand.

    Speaking of Ahearn, don't you think he looks a little bit like a certain Royals pitcher?



  • On Saturday afternoon, I saw Mr. 3000, starring the one and only Bernie Mac as a former major leaguer who makes a comeback to get his 3,000th career hit. Of all the baseball movies I've ever seen, this one's my third-favorite behind The Sandlot and Major League. Not only was the story of how a self-obsessed man can become a team player very good, but the cameo appearances by current and former major leaguers were particularly cool as well.

    This wouldn't be the first time a real baseball player has appeared in a baseball movie, with Tom Candiotti, Ricky Ledee, Scott Pose, Bobby Bonilla and others having been actors-for-a-day in baseball movies over the last decade.

    In Mr. 3000, I'm pretty sure I saw Dodgers pitcher Scott Stewart don a Braves jersey and make a few pitches to Stan Ross (Bernie Mac), and ex-Royal Doug Henry made an appearance too as a member of the Houston Astros. If I remember correctly, Henry gave up a game-winning bomb to Ross, who was 47 years old at the time. Some things just never change.

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