Minor League Prospect Report: Hiram Burgos, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
One of the best pitchers in the minor leagues in 2012 was Hiram Burgos of the Milwaukee Brewers system. Pitching at three levels (High-A Brevard County, Double-A Huntsville, Triple-A Nashville), Burgos went 10-4, 1.95 ERA with a 153/49 K/BB ratio in 171 innings, allowing only 128 hits. You don't see him on many prospect lists, so let's change that and see what the Brewers have here.
Born in Puerto Rico, Hiram Burgos was a consistently successful pitcher for three years at Bethune-Cookman College. He had a poor freshman season in '06, but emerged as the staff ace and rotation anchor with a fine sophomore season in '07, an outstanding '08 (1.57 ERA), and a solid '09. The Brewers drafted him in the sixth round that spring, a budget-oriented pick with a bonus of just $15,000. It looks like they got good value.
Burgos scuffled initially, posting a 5.62 ERA and allowing 75 hits in 58 innings for Helena in the Pioneer League, although his K/BB was good at 53/14. He split 2010 with a repeat performance at Helena (2.37 ERA, 48/5 K/BB in 38 innings) and Low-A Wisconsin, where he threw strikes but did not dominate. In '11 he made 22 starts for High-A Brevard County and did not distinguish himself, posting a 4.89 ERA with an 80/39 K/BB and 142 hits in 120 innings.
He wasn't on the radar as anything more than an organization arm entering '12. Returning to Brevard County, he posted an 0.87 ERA with a 41/6 K/BB in 41 innings and allowed just 21 hits. Promoted to Double-A Huntsville, he had few problems against better competition and posted a 1.94 ERA with a 77/28 K/BB with 68 hits allowed in 83 innings. Even bumping up to Triple-A Nashville and the Pacific Coast League only slowed him down slightly, resulting in a 2.91 ERA with a 35/15 K/BB and 39 hits in 46 innings. It's been an outstanding campaign.
Burgos is a 6-1, 210 pound right-hander, born August 4, 1987 in Cayey, Puerto Rico. As you may surmise, he doesn't have exceptional velocity, working at 88-91 MPH. The fastball plays up, however, due to the contrast with his wide array of secondary pitches. He has a very good curveball, but also uses a changeup, cutter, and traditional slider. His pitching patterns aren't predictable and he does a good job keeping hitters off-balance. You can see his delivery about 18 seconds into that highlight video.
Scouts tend to be suspicious about pitchers like this, and with good reason: the tricks that work in A-ball don't always work in the high minors or majors. But sometimes they do, and Burgos has made a lot of progress this year, developing his command from "good" to "excellent." The Brewers aren't afraid to give guys like this a shot if they deserve it, and Burgos performed well enough this season to be in the roster picture for '13, as four/five starter or a relief asset. Keep an eye on him.