Hard-throwing Univ. of Louisville righty No. 26 pick
By Scott Merkin
CHICAGO -- Being taken No. 26 overall by the White Sox on Thursday night on Day 1 of the 2016 MLB Draft was "an absolute dream come true" for right-hander Zack Burdi.
Not only was the University of Louisville junior selected as a compensation pick for free agent Jeff Samardzija signing with the Giants, but he also comes from Downers Grove, a western suburb of Chicago located about 30 minutes from U.S. Cellular Field.
"I'm not just saying that because I'm a Chicago kid, but it is," said Burdi during a conference call. "Being a White Sox fan growing up, going to games, seeing the [Paul] Konerkos and Frank Thomases, it was something I looked forward to and something I always wanted to go to and be a part of.
"To have the opportunity to be a part of it and the organization and have that opportunity placed in front of me is something I'm grateful for and can't thank the White Sox organization enough for."
Burdi, 21, has a high-octane fastball in the 95-98-mph range and has topped out at 101 mph. He has 11 saves, a 2.20 ERA and 46 strikeouts and seven walks over 28 2/3 innings this season for the Cardinals. But beyond the fastball, Burdi developed his slider and changeup this season to improve his overall effectiveness.
The slider was something he consciously began using more in fall scrimmages for the Cardinals.
"I just wanted to progress the pitch and use the pitch come spring time and think as the spring progresses, more games are coming my way and I'm getting more opportunities," said Burdi, whose team plays UC Santa Barbara on Saturday in Super Regional action. "I'm definitely showing the work we put in, and the plan we set out is coming to life, and we're seeing good results."
"His slider is terrific but the big thing for him is the development of his changeup," White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler said. "His changeup is devastating to lefties. One of the guys in our room called it a plus-fastball. It's 92-mph changeup with big-time sink. This guy has got three plus-plus pitches. It's impact. It's lights out stuff."
University of Miami catcher Zack Collins was selected by the White Sox with their first of three picks at No. 10 overall. University of Oklahoma right-hander Alec Hansen was taken at No. 49.
Burdi's family soon with have a little American League Central rivalry to figure out, as Zack's brother, Nick, pitches in the Twins' organization.
"I was drafted by the White Sox, and the first thing my mom mentioned was that she was going to have to get one of those shirts that are cut down with Sox on one side, Twins on the other and Burdi on the back," said Burdi, whose slot value is $2,128,500. "She's really excited and our whole family is excited. Obviously it's a rivalry, but my family is going to support the both of us."
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at noon CT.