Websites devoted to scouting potential major league baseball players—and predicting where they’ll go in the draft—aren’t as prominent as sites that focus on scouting NFL players and conducting mock drafts.
But the baseball sites exist, and prior to last week’s Major League Baseball amateur draft, several sites agreed that recently graduated Downers Grove South star Nick Burdi was one of the top high school pitching prospects not only in Illinois, but in the country.
Some sites had Burdi penciled in as a second- or third-round pick. One site,winatfantasy.com, a site for fantasy baseball players, predicted Tampa Bay would use one of its three first-round selections to draft him. The site had the Rays using their second first-round pick, No. 31 overall, to take Burdi.
Power arms always catch the attention of MLB scouts, and Burdi’s right arm clearly falls into that classification. Burdi, who’s been receiving attention from scouts since his junior year, regularly reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and has been one of the Chicago area’s most dominating prep pitchers. He topped out at 97 mph during a game vs. Oswego East this spring.
“I’m just happy to be drafted by the Twins. They’re a good organization,” Burdi said after the draft.
Getting tabbed in the later rounds, however, doesn't mean Burdi’s stock has taken a nose dive. Other teams were interested in drafting him higher, but Burdi explained that at the end of the day, each team’s final package of a signing bonus and other incentives weren’t enough for him to renege on fulfilling his commitment to play college ball for head coach Dan McDonnell and the University of Louisville program—one that he made verbally as a junior.
Burdi officially signed his letter of intent with Louisville last November.
“There were other things that we wanted and needed to happen but they [MLB teams] didn’t basically meet those requirements,” he said. “Since the very beginning I wanted to play for coach McDonnell and Louisville, play three years and develop myself as a pitcher. I want to win a College World Series and play for the Cardinals.”
The Cardinals missed getting to the NCAA Regionals this spring but advanced to the regional tournament each of the past four seasons. They made it to the 2007 College World Series, their first-ever appearance in Omaha, in McDonnell’s first year as coach.
Burdi was notified by Jeff Pohl, the Twins’ Illinois area scout, that he had been drafted by the club.
“He just wanted to say congratulations,” Burdi said. “He called me right when they were drafting me. They just said that if I were to come into their system they’d see me as a big leaguer.”
Burdi foresees making it to the big leagues one day.
“It’s been my goal since I’ve started playing baseball” he said.
But he’s looking forward to starting with the Cardinals. He’ll make his way to Louisville either in early July or by mid-August. Louisville doesn’t have a fall league, but the Cardinals will play intersquad scrimmages. Burdi hopes to begin making his bid to break into the Cardinals’ rotation during the fall.
“He [McDonnell] sees me battling for a [conference games] rotation spot,” Burdi said. “I’m really excited to get down there and start working with the coaches and, hopefully, play for a national championship next year or the year after.”
Burdi currently is on a six-day-per-week workout regiment and is pitching on the weekends with the Downers Grove Longshots’ summer league team. He’ll continue on this schedule until he packs his bags for Louisville.
Burdi said once he settles in at his new school, he’ll be working on a number of things in addition to earning a spot in the rotation.
“Just, basically, working my fastball both sides of the plate, getting my off-speed pitches over and just cleaning up my delivery a little bit,” said Burdi, who won’t be eligible for the MLB draft again until he completes his junior year at Louisville.
The 6-foot-5-inch Burdi—whose older brother, Drew, was the 2005 West Suburban Conference Gold Division Offensive Player of the Year at quarterback for Downers South—completed his prep career with a victory in the sectional semifinals over Plainfield North earlier this month. He posted a career 19-2 record in high school.
“Just playing with my friends since I’ve been about 7 years old, playing for 11 years together is some of the best memories that I can have,” he said.