Saturday, July 12, 2014

Minor league trip: Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi

Kohl Stewart delivers Friday against the
Clinton LumberKings. (Photo by
Linda Vanderwerf)
The single most important player on the Cedar Rapids Kernels is Kohl Stewart, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 draft. I made the trip to Clinton's 1930s relic of a ballpark Friday to see the kid pitch.

Cedar Rapids blogger "Jim Crikket" warned me on Thursday: Stewart is kept on a tight pitch count and thus doesn't often work deep into games. (The same is true of the other teenager in the Kernels rotation, Lewis Thorpe, who I will not see pitch on this trip.)

The limits show in Stewart's record: He averages less than five innings a start, which makes it very difficult to pick up the win. His ERA is 2.58, but his won-loss record is 2-5; you can get a loss in a four-inning start, but you can't get a win.

He had no problems with the limits Friday. Stewart went six innings, allowing one run on six hits. He didn't walk anybody, and struck out five.

He has a very compact delivery; even in the windup, the right knee doesn't come close to waist level, and the hands don't rise above the chest. There's even less motion in the stretch; the slide step seems to come naturally to him.

Nick Burdi's is a maximum-effort delivery.
Notice the back leg kick in his follow-
through. (Photo by Linda Vanderwerf).
Unlike the (generally) more up-to-date Cedar Rapids yard, the Clinton park displays radar gun readings. Stewart touched 95 at least twice, but he generally worked his fast ball around 91 mph. The higher-velocity stuff tended to get hit pretty hard, actually; he got most of his outs, and certainly most of this third strikes, on offerings in the mid to upper 80s, either sliders or two-seam fastballs.

He got eight outs on ground balls, five on outfield flies and five on strikeouts. One of the hits off him came on a bunt. He made a very nice defensive play himself, coming off the mound to field a tapper on a short hop and take it to first himself for the out.

Another pitcher I was hoping to see got the ball for the ninth inning: Nick Burdi, the Twins' second-round pick in last month's draft. He threw 12 pitches Friday and struck out the side. I recorded the speed on the park scoreboard for each pitch:

93, 97, 97, 88 (strikeout); 98, 96, 97, 89 (strikeout); 95, 89, 97, 96 (strikeout). Overwhelming stuff, to be sure, with the three high-80s offerings being wicked sliders. I don't think the three hitters Burdi faced even mustered a foul ball.

The word on Burdi around draft time was that he could be fast-tracked to the majors. I sure didn't see anything to contradict that assessment. It's not likely that the Twins would do that, but they could.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff here - thanks for the insight!
    -Can of Corn