BOZICH | Burdi, Smith, Solak early stars in Louisville baseball' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Burdi, Smith, Solak early stars in Louisville baseball's 2016 Draft class as Ray struggles

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Former Louisville relief pitcher Zack Burdi is the only player taken in the 2016 draft pitching in AAA. Former Louisville relief pitcher Zack Burdi is the only player taken in the 2016 draft pitching in AAA.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Will this be the week that former Louisville closer Zack Burdi makes his major-league debut?

Is outfielder Corey Ray going to move into his comfort zone and reel off a 14-game hitting streak, like the one that put second baseman Nick Solak in the New York-Penn League all-star game?

The minor league baseball season has moved into the final three weeks, which makes Wednesday the perfect moment to study how the seven former University of Louisville baseball players selected in the first four rounds of the 2016 MLB Free Agent Draft have performed in their first pro seasons.

Some have excelled. Others have struggled.

One -- Burdi -- is the subject of chatter in Chicago that he will be the first player from the 2016 draft to appear in the big leagues.

Burdi has delivered nine consecutive scoreless performances for the White Sox in Class AA and AAA, striking out five in two innings while earning a save Tuesday night.

There was a report that Burdi will be summoned to Chicago when the White Sox return home to play Oakland this weekend.

The optimism about the White Sox season drained away two months ago. They're an afterthought in a town counting the days until the Bears kickoff and the Cubs begin their post-season push.

Would the White Sox promote Burdi, a hometown kid, to create a late-season headline?

"I would be surprised if they called Zack up, but I would not be shocked," said John Furmaniak, Burdi's agent.

Furmaniak said that he read the story about the rumored promotion but that he has not discussed it with Burdi.

"With him being promoted so quickly there's not fair to put that idea in his head when Zack's focus is on adjusting to AAA after thinking he was going to finish the season at AA."

Keep an eye on the transaction wire.

Here is a rundown on how the seven former Cardinals have performed:

*Corey Ray, pick 5, Milwaukee Brewers, outfielder

Slash Line: .218/.277/.333 – batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage.

Promotions: None.

Current Level: High A, Florida State League

Wow Stat: 12 extra-base hits in 174 at bats.

Biggest Question: Why has Ray, a left-handed hitter, had more success against left-handed pitchers (.229) than right-handed pitchers (.214)? Milwaukee was aggressive with Ray by starting him in the FSL and the Brewers have been comfortable letting Ray struggle with 39 strikeouts.

Early Grade: C-minus.

*Zack Burdi, pick 26, Chicago White Sox, relief pitcher

Slash Line: 3.33/.172/1.04 -- earned run average, opponents' batting average, walks/hits per innings pitched.

Promotions: 3

Current Level: Triple A, International League

Wow Stat: 37 strikeouts in 27 innings.

Biggest Question: Will the White Sox keep him in the bullpen or convert Burdi to a starting pitcher next season?

Early Grade: A.

*Will Smith, pick 32, Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher

Slash Line: .259/.364/.348

Promotions: Two.

Current Level: High A, California League.

Wow Stat: Taking 21 walks in 41 professional games shows excellent awareness of the strike zone.

Biggest Question: Although Smith has hit four home runs, he's managed only a pair of doubles in 158 at bats.

Early Grade: A-minus.

*Nick Solak, pick 62, New York Yankees, second baseman

Slash Line: .308/.404/.414

Promotions: None.

Current Level: Rookie ball, New York-Penn League.

Wow Stat: Solak has stolen eight bases without being thrown out. Solak enjoyed a single and an RBI in two at-bats in the NYP All-Star game Tuesday.

Biggest Question: Why haven’t the Yankees bumped Solak to Low A ball?

Early Grade: A-minus.

*Drew Harrington, pick 80, Atlanta Braves, pitcher

Slash Line: 2.25/.265/1.33

Promotions: None.

Current Level: Rookie ball, Appalachian League.

Wow Stat: With 14 strikeouts in only a dozen innings, Harrington has averaged two strikeouts per appearance.

Biggest Question: Harrington started 17 games for U of L in 2016 but six of his seven pro appearances have been in relief. Have the Braves decided his future is a left-handed relief specialist?

Early Grade: B.

*Blake Tiberi, pick 100, New York Mets, third baseman

Slash Line: .237/.320/290

Promotions: None.

Current Level: Rookie ball, New York-Penn League.

Wow Stat: Tiberi just finished a six-game hitting streak with six RBIs.

Biggest Question: Will he show enough power to remain at third base? Tiberi has five extra-base hits without a home run in 131 at bats.

Early Grade: C.

*Kyle Funkhouser, pick 115, Detroit Tigers, starting pitcher

Slash Line: 2.77/.250/1.04

Promotions: None

Current Level: Rookie ball, New York-Penn League.

Wow Stat: Funkhouser has 24 strikeouts and only three walks in 26 innings.

Biggest Question: Why haven't the Tigers promoted Funkhouser, 22, to Class A ball?

Early Grade: B-plus.

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