Zack Burdi

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Tommy John surgeries have knocked out two top White Sox pitching prospects for 2019 (Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning), but one pitching prospect is set to make a notable step in his return from the surgery.

Zack Burdi will join Single-A Kannapolis on a rehab stint on Monday. Burdi had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017. In his first game action since the surgery, he made seven appearances last August with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie level). The Downers Grove native made five more appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being pulled from the league due to “general fatigue.” He talked about his recovery process on an episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

In spring training, Burdi was not invited to major league camp and he wasn’t on a minor league roster when the season began. With this news, he is set to hit another milestone in his return. If all goes well in Kannapolis, it is expected that Burdi will join Triple-A Charlotte, where he was in 2017 when he got hurt.

If Burdi can recapture his stuff, which profiled him as a back end of the bullpen pitcher, he could even join the White Sox sometime in 2019. He has to show he is healthy and back to his old self first though. The 24-year-old was taken with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft and is the No. 16 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline.

Another prospect will be joining Burdi in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, No. 7 prospect in the system, will also join the Intimidators on Monday. Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during batting practice in spring training. It was initially estimated that he would return in late May, so Basabe appears to be ahead of schedule. The 22-year-old spent the second half of 2019 with Double-A Birmingham and is expected to return there after rehabbing with Kannapolis.

Elsewhere on the White Sox prospect injury watch, Luis Robert left a game on Saturday with soreness in his left hand and is reportedly day-to-day. He was hit by a pitch in the first game of a doubleheader for Single-A Winston-Salem. He made one at-bat in the second game, a leadoff groundout, and then was taken out of the game. He did not play on Sunday.

Robert endured an injury-plagued 2018. He was limited to 50 games, but has been on fire early in 2019. Robert leads the Carolina League in batting average (.475), home runs (6), hits (28), runs (16), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging percentage (.915) and is tied for the league lead in RBIs (18) and stolen bases (7).

 

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Burdi talks about coming back from Tommy John surgery

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Burdi talks about coming back from Tommy John surgery

The White Sox former first round pick speaks with Chuck Garfien in Arizona about growing up a White Sox fan and meeting Frank Thomas (2:35), what it was like suffering his UCL tear in front of friends and family back in Louisville where he played in college (5:00), the challenges of coming back from Tommy John surgery (9:10), how he's feeling today (10:50), why he doesn't look forward in his career anymore and lives in the present (14:20), speaking with Michael Kopech about Tommy John recovery (15:30) his kicking career at Downers Grove High School and the biggest moment of his high school career (17:00).

Listen below or click to listen here.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox Team of the Future: Closer

White Sox Team of the Future: Closer

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) over the next few weeks. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

Relief pitching is volatile, as Rick Hahn will tell you. It's hard to project out who's going to be your closer by the end of the season, making it exponentially more difficult to project who's going to be your closer two years from now. But we did it anyway. And we landed on Zack Burdi.

It makes plenty of sense. He was a first-round pick of the White Sox in 2016, he's yet to reach his 24th birthday (that comes in March) and he's ranked as the organization's No. 17 prospect. There's no White Sox relief-pitching prospect with a higher ceiling than the Downers Grove native.

But Burdi is also serving as an illustration of the pitfalls of development. He was injured in early July of 2017 and had Tommy John surgery, which wiped out the rest of his 2017 season and most of 2018. He got back into action in the Arizona Fall League to close out 2018, but he was shut down there, too, though that was explained as nothing to worry about by Hahn at the GM Meetings in November.

While the White Sox remain high on Burdi and see him as potentially making his way to the majors in 2019, it's perfectly valid to wonder how more than a year on the shelf has affected his future.

Hahn thinks there's no reason for concern.

“He is doing well, and it is too early to be concerned about Zack Burdi,” he said at the GM Meetings. “It's important to get back throwing regularly. He had a very long rehab process, as you can imagine, which ended with going out on a regular basis in the Arizona Fall League. He cleared every hurdle we had for him at the end.

“He expressed to us a level of fatigue as far as his overall body being worn out from the time of his throwing program to instructs, to the Fall League, we felt it made sense to just shut him down instead of just running him out there for the last two weeks of Fall League.

“We are pleased with where he's at right now. We had always said that the target for him would be to be essentially back without restriction in 2019. That continues to be the case.”

Is Burdi going to be the White Sox closer of the future? He'd figure to have as good a shot as anyone, probably the best shot. But you never know with relievers, you generally never know with prospects and you never know with guys who haven't played in a year and a half. The good news he'll probably start the season at Triple-A Charlotte and could be in the majors before season's end, giving the White Sox and their fans a chance to answer that question for themselves.

Other vote-getters

Alex Colome. Losing out to Burdi by one vote was the guy who will most likely be the White Sox closer of the present beginning in 2019. Colome was acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners this offseason and is a tremendous get for a White Sox bullpen that really needed one of those. He's just two years removed from being the major league saves leader when with the Tampa Bay Rays, and the only reason he didn't rack up a bunch more saves in 2019 is because he was dealt to the Pacific Northwest and worked as the setup man for last season's major league saves leader, Edwin Diaz. Colome has a great track record and is under team control for two more seasons, perhaps meaning he's around when the future arrives. He could also be used as a midseason trade piece if the White Sox so choose. It might require a contract extension at some point, but he's a solid pick to be the closer of the future — and a more established one than most of the organization's other internal options.

Ian Hamilton. Called up at the end of last season and doing a decent amount of impressing after a remarkable season in the minors, Hamilton is actually ranked higher than Burdi on the White Sox prospects list. A couple months younger than Burdi, he was sensational in the minors in 2018: a 1.74 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 51.2 innings between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Things didn't go quite as smoothly upon his ascension to the big leagues, with Hamilton turning in a 4.50 ERA in his just eight innings of major league work. But he'll be under way less pressure in 2019 thanks to the additions of Colome and Kelvin Herrera to the White Sox bullpen. Hamilton and a host of other young relievers won't be thrown into the high-leverage situations they were already getting thrown into at the end of 2018, helping their development, one would assume. Hamilton showed he could dominate in the minors, making him not at all a bad pick for the closer of the future.

Tyler Johnson. Speaking of dominating in the minors, the White Sox prospect more people should be talking about is Johnson, who was absolutely amazing, statistically, last season. Though he's yet to pitch above the Class A level, Johnson finished 2018 with a pencil-thin 1.40 ERA and 89 strikeouts in just 58 innings between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. His days in the majors might be a ways away, but this is the future we're talking about and maybe Johnson is that ninth-inning guy one day.

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