2011 MLB Draft Q&A: Nick Burdi

Built like the prototypical right-handed power pitcher, Nick Burdi has emerged as one of the top ranked high school arms in the country. We sat down with the starter to discuss his stuff, his college commitment, and how he deals with the pressures of being so highly touted.

I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2011 has to offer each Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I've seen you listed anywhere from 6'3", 175 lbs to 6'4", 210 lbs. What's the truth?

Nick Burdi: Right now I'm about 6'5", 220 lbs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Whoa, when was that 6'3", 175 lbs that Baseball America has you listed at from?

Nick Burdi: That's from my around my freshman year. They got that from a team I was playing with at the time, the Longshots.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You've basically put on 45 lbs since then - were you hitting the gym hard, or was the weight gain more about just filling out?

Nick Burdi: I've been working out. I have a trainer that has put me on a diet since my junior year, and I've been going to him about 6 times a week in the offseason and 4 times a week in-season. He's helped me out a lot, and that's really where all the strength and power has come from.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you played any other sports growing up?

Nick Burdi: I played football throughout my whole life, and that's what most people thought I would go to college for and maybe do later in life too, but I gave it up going into my junior year because baseball was the one sport I really wanted to focus on.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What position did you play?

Nick Burdi: I played Quarterback.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you a big Bears fan?

Nick Burdi: [laughs] Yeah, I've been a Bears fan ever since I can remember.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When was the first time you realized that you have a shot to do something with baseball after high school, and maybe for a living?

Nick Burdi: I think it was my sophomore year when I pitched in a 15 year old national tournament in Crystal Lake, Illinois. There were teams from all over the country, as well as Puerto Rico and Japan. In the first game I pitched I threw a one-hitter against a top team from Wisconsin, and then in my second start we lost against Team Japan in the quarterfinals, but the game was 1-0 I think, and that was kind of when I realized that baseball was something that I could do for the rest of my life.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you remember the first time you hit 90 MPH?

Nick Burdi: Yeah, it was on a scout team in the summer after my sophomore year. One of the scouts from Purdue told me that I had hit 90-91 MPH, which was the hardest I had ever thrown before. At first I didn't believe it, but then the coach called me a couple of hours later and told me that he had my velocity that high, too.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it specifically that drew you to Louisville?

Nick Burdi: Basically it was just the coaching staff and the facilities down there. Coach McDonnell is one of the best head coaches in the country, and I trust him to lead our team to Omaha in the next few years when I'm there. Coach Williams has one of the best track records with pitchers and developing them to be ready for the next level. It just seems like they take care of their baseball players. The school cares a lot and wants to give the players the best opportunity to succeed.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: On the flip side, how much have you thought about the draft?

Nick Burdi: Yeah, I think about it, but right now I'm just focused on going to school. If the opportunity comes I'll just have to sit down with my family and figure out what the best decision is for me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is the image you get in your mind when you dream about being a professional baseball player?

Nick Burdi: I haven't really thought about it that much. I don't know, it's kind of surreal to think about it right now, because I didn't really think I'd be in the situation I'm in now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Nick Burdi: We've had about 26 home visits.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Were the Yankees among those 26?

Nick Burdi: No, the Yankees are one of the teams I haven't sat down with. I think it's them, the Cubs, White Sox, and maybe one or two other teams.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: [laughs] Oh man, does that burn you that the Cubs have not gotten to you yet?

Nick Burdi: [laughs] Yeah, I know! They saw me a lot last year, and hopefully they'll call me, but I'll just have to wait it out until then.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you give me a detailed description of your arsenal?

Nick Burdi: For my fastball I throw just a four-seam, but I throw from a low three-quarters armslot so it's not totally straight. Last fall I got clocked up to 97 MPH, and it bites a bit just because of the armslot I come from. I throw a slider that's starting to break a lot more compared to where it was last summer. I'm getting it to have some later break, which is a lot better than where it was. I throw it two different ways, one that's 79-82 MPH and then another that I got up to 88-91 MPH when I was down in Florida. I've been working pretty hard on developing a circle changeup this winter, and it's getting a lot of run in towards a righty batter. Right now it's just an ok pitch that I've been working on in my bullpens, it's around 75-76 MPH and gets an 11-to-5 break.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: It's still early in the season, but do you know where your fastball has been sitting so far this spring?

Nick Burdi: We got the gun out last weekend, and I think I was 92-95 MPH, touching 96 MPH once. That was inside, so hopefully once we get outside it shoots up a little bit with the warm weather.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You have two strikes on a guy – what are you using to put him away?

Nick Burdi: Probably either a fastball outside, or a slider that's either in the dirt or just outside at the knees.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What kind of outward emotion, if any, do you show on the mound?

Nick Burdi: Most of the time I'm pretty calm out there; I try and stay as cool as possible. Once a game, when it gets really heated up, I can definitely get into it and get pretty excited out there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you're not afraid to throw a fistpump here and there?

Nick Burdi: [laughs] No, not at all!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you currently play two-way?

Nick Burdi: You know, they're trying to work me into firstbase or rightfield, but the focus is on pitching right now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I have read that you are a Cubs fan – is that something that's been passed down through family to you?

Nick Burdi: Yeah, I mean I like watching the Cubs, but since I was about 11 I've liked watching the Red Sox, too. I think they're both my favorite teams to watch during the summer.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Does the Red Sox fandom come from anyone in particular, or do you just like their style?

Nick Burdi: I think it's more of just seeing Fenway Park on TV, all the fans, and how in Boston everyone is a Red Sox fan. Thinking about playing there in Fenway with all those fans watching is one of the coolest things to me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the guys in the Majors that you look up to for their skill or the way they play the game?

Nick Burdi: I think Josh Beckett might be one of them. We throw some of the same pitches and the mechanics that I've been working on this past winter have started to develop somewhat into what he looks like on the mound.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If, for $100, you could buy the ability to throw any active Major Leaguer's stuff for one hour just to see what it was like, whose would you spend the money on?

Nick Burdi: I'd say Aroldis Chapman. He throws 105 MPH, and that's got to be one of the coolest feelings in the world.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Along the same lines, if you could steal one pitch from anyone else in your draft class and add it to your arsenal, whose would it be?

Nick Burdi: Hmm…maybe Gerrit Cole's curveball? He's got a pretty nasty breaking ball.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest hitter you have faced?

Nick Burdi: I'd probably say Nicky Delmonico at the Under Armour game. Seeing him hitting at USA trials and watching video on him made me know what he was capable of doing.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If Nick Burdi isn't at the baseball field he can usually be found…

Nick Burdi: Usually it'll probably be playing video games at a friend's house or just going out somewhere to hang out – maybe the movies or something.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's the big game you guys compete at?

Nick Burdi: We play the old school PS2 and have the old college baseball game from the year 2006 or around there. Me and all my friends play it on our downtime.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How do you try and remain a normal 18 year old high school senior when, quite frankly, you don't have normal opportunities in front of you? How do you deal with that pressure and still stay grounded?

Nick Burdi: Yeah, this type of situation isn't something that a regular kid is going to be faced with until he's maybe 26-27 years old. For me it's just about trying to still have fun and playing the game. Next year, no matter where I go, it's going to more of a business and more of a job than it is now. Hopefully it's a job that I'll be doing for the rest of my life, but right now it's all about having fun playing the game and hanging out with my friends whenever I'm able to.

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