The Milwaukee Brewers promoted right-handed pitching prospect Hiram Burgos to the major leagues yesterday, replacing Michael Fiers, who has had a rough spring so far. Here's the scoop on Burgos.
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.
Overall last year, Burgos went 10-4 with a 1.95 ERA and a 153/49 K/BB ratio in 170 innings.
Burgos is a 6-1, 210 pound right-hander, born August 4, 1987 in Cayey, Puerto Rico. As you may surmise given the combination of great statistics with little press attention, 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.
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,at least for awhile. Burgos is similar in that respect to the guy he is replacing: Michael Fiers, who leveraged a similar command-oriented approach into a nice run of success last year.
The league may have caught up with Fiers and the same may happen to Burgos eventually, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Burgos has at least short-term success. He pitched very well for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic, and could end up being a decent back-of-the-rotation starter.