The Yankees drafted Danny Burawa in the 12th round back in 2010 out of St. John's, where he served as the team's closer. Unlike most arms taken in the 12th rounder, Burawa sat in the mid-90's with his fastball, but fell to the Yankees due to questions about his makeup and command. It also didn't help that he went to St. John's, which isn't exactly known as a baseball powerhouse. Burawa's command didn't get much better as he climbed the minor league ladder, but his raw stuff allowed him to miss enough batters to make it work. His development was stunted when a torn oblique forced him to miss the entire 2012 season, but he looked as good as ever upon returning to the mound in 2013. In 66 Double-A innings that year, he posted a 2.59 ERA despite walking an unsightly 15% of opposing hitters.
Burawa took his act to Triple-A Scranton in 2014, but struggled mightily despite his electric stuff. After an impressive Spring Training, the hard-thrower was lights out in five scoreless April appearances before missing a month with an undisclosed injury. His command wasn't quite the same after returning, which lead to a 13% BB% and a 7.64 ERA over the next two months, and a demotion to Double-A Trenton. To his credit, Burawa pitched markedly better following his demotion, putting up a 1.59 ERA and 2.30 FIP over 17 innings.
KATOH, my prospect projection system, hates Burawa. It gives him just a 55% chance of throwing a pitch in the majors over the next three seasons, and a mere 1% chance of reaching 4 fWAR over this time. Its not hard to see why. Statistically speaking, Burawa looks pretty un-enticing -- 26-year old relievers who haven't mastered Triple-A pitching rarely amount to much. But KATOH also doesn't know that Burawa's raw stuff is something close to excellent. Here's a look at Burawa's odds of reaching certain WAR thresholds through age 28:
Burawa showed flashes of dominance last year, but those flashes were overshadowed by injuries and ineffectiveness. And at 26, Burawa's more than a little old to still be struggling in the minors. With a fastball that sometimes approaches triple digits and nasty slider, the potential to be a dominant reliever is certainly there, but it's starting to look like his spotty command may prevent him from ever reaching that ceiling. The Yankees added Burawa to their 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the rule 5 draft, so there's a very good chance we'll see him in the Bronx in 2015 -- even if it's only to eat up a few garbage innings in September. Even with the command problems, Burawa's just about major league ready. If he's able to reign in his command just a little bit, he could be a real force out of the pen as soon as this year.