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2007 Bullpen Preview: Ambiorix Burgos

Mike SteffanosTuesday, January 16, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

The Mets obtained right-handed reliever Ambiorix Burgos from the Kansas City Royals in December of last year for pitcher Brian Bannister. Burgos, who will turn 23 in April, is a hard-throwing right-hander who was originally signed by the Royals as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Here is a scouting report on Burgos from Baseball America's Matt Meyers after the trade:

Burgos has dazzled the [Royals] organization with a fastball that sniffs triple digits, though he never dominated at any level because of his erratic command. His inability to repeat his delivery has prevented him from mastering a slider or changeup.

The Royals aggressively promoted him to the big leagues in 2005 with middling results. Though he has struck out more then a batter per inning over the last two seasons with the Royals, he also has 68 walks in 138 innings in the majors and had a 5.52 ERA this year.

Here is a portion of BA's scouting report on Burgos when he was selected as the 17th best prospect in the Class-A Midwest League following the 2004 season:

Most MWL observers projected Burgos as a future setup man or closer because he doesn't spin a breaking ball well. His slider is iffy and his changeup is average at best, but this year he did add a splitter that has potential. Along with his command and secondary pitches, he also must improve his focus and maturity.

In an article on the trade on Mets.com, Bryan Hoch quotes Omar Minaya on the Burgos pickup:

I'm expecting him to come into camp and be one of the guys [that] Willie's going to have options to have. He's a young kid and we see [an] upside.

[In Burgos], we feel we were able to get a young power arm into our 'pen that's still developing. I think we feel we have numbers in pitching. It's a trade we were happy to do, and just continues to improve our bullpen.

Despite his young age, Burgos spent most of 2005 and all of last season pitching in the majors. The pitching-starved Royals even made him their closer last season. Here are his 2 year totals:

Ambiorix Burgos Major League Totals
Year Games Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA AVG vs. RH vs. LH
2005 59 63.1 8.5 9.2 4.4 0.9 3.98 .251 .216 .300
2006 68 73.1 10.1 8.8 4.5 2.0 5.52 .288 .249 .345
Totals 127 136.2 9.4 9.0 4.4 1.5 4.81 .271 .234 .324

A look at Burgos' splits vs. right-handed and left-handed batters shows clearly how ineffective he was against lefties last season:

Ambiorix Burgos vs. RH/LH 2006
 Innings ERA Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG
vs. RHB46.0 3.91 8.2 7.6 3.7 1.2 .249 .333 .402
vs. LHB27.1 8.23 13.5 10.9 5.9 3.3 .345 .436 .672

The obvious weaknesses here are the walk and homerun totals and an inability to retire left-handed batters. They were the primary culprits in Burgos blowing 12 saves in 30 chances for the Royals in 2006. Also, an inability to command his secondary pitches led to an overreliance on the fastball. Burgos threw his fastball almost 75% of the time, and used it as his first pitch to a batter an astounding 85% of the time. Burgos' ability to bring that heater at close to 100 mph didn't stop major league hitters from batting .321 against that fastball last year. If he is to develop as a pitcher, it will involve finding a consistent delivery and improving his command of all his pitches.

The Royals severely rushed Burgos, allowing him less than 200 total minor league innings with only 12 innings coming above class A. In essence, Burgos has been trying to learn on the job against major league hitters, and that's no easy task for a large pitcher (6-3, 235) with inconsistent delivery mechanics. I wonder if he would benefit from spending some time in the high minors. Unfortunately, coming after two full seasons in the majors this sort of demotion could prove counterproductive, causing a player to get down on himself. In any case, I've heard an interview with Omar where he insists that Burgos is not simply a project, but rather someone who could help right away. Perhaps the Mets will try to work him in and build his confidence in the same manner that Jorge Julio was used early last season. Barring significant struggles in the spring, I do think Burgos will start the season in the major league bullpen. At the very least I think a spot is his to lose.

Note: This preview was updated 1/17/2007.

2007 Bullpen Previews:
Jon Adkins
Adam Bostick
Ambiorix Burgos (This Article)
Marcos Carvajal
Pedro Feliciano
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Clint Nageotte
Juan Padilla
Chan Ho Park
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Sele
Joe Smith
Jorge Sosa
Billy Wagner
Other Candidates
Four Other Names for You

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

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Comments (2)

Great Job again Mike. The trade for Burgos was really a win win for all parites involved. The Royals got another young starter with some potential for quality. Brian Bannister got a chance to start for a team that will let him stay in the rotation. Burgos comes to a team that will give him both the patience he may need to find his groove and a chance at instant success. And the Mets have acquired a 22 year old who can hurl it at 100mph. And those don't exactly grow on trees.

I think Burgos will get a chance to be the right handed specialist during the early parts of this year now that Bradford is gone. His numbers against righties really point to this as the best scenario for him in 2007. If he can focus on righties and enjoy some success, it may help him develop the confidence he will need to become a more complete reliever in the future. This will also allow him time to improve his slider or splitter while still being productive for the team. If he succeds his value to the team would eventually approach Joel Zumaya's value to Detroit. If he doesn't, he goes to AAA at the very acceptable age of 23 to get the work he may need. Either way, everyone comes out on top.

Makes a lot of sense to me.

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