Six years ago, Corbin Burnes was an undersized high school middle infielder with faint hopes of ever playing professional baseball.
Now, after a position change, some substantial physical growth and a lot of hard work, the Bakersfield native is one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ top pitching prospects.
Last year, Burnes, a Centennial High and St. Mary’s College of California product, was drafted in the fourth round by Milwaukee and went on to post a 3-0 record and 2.27 ERA in six combined Rookie League and Low-A starts.
Burnes won’t find out where ’s going to start this season until after spring training, but big things are expected from the 6-foot-3, 205-pound, hard-throwing right-handler.
“I’m really excited,” Burnes said. “This will be the first spring training that I get to go to. I’m happy to be part of the Brewers organization and ready to get going my first full season.”
Armed with a repertoire of four outstanding pitches, including a fastball that reaches as high 97 mph on the radar gun, Burnes has the potential to be pitching in the Major Leagues within the next couple of years.
That’s been a dream of his ever since he was a youngster playing tee-ball on the baseball fields next to Sam Lynn Ballpark.
An injury kept Burnes from playing his junior season at Centennial. However, completely healthy for his senior year, Burnes finally got his chance to show what he could do on the mound by posting a 9-4 record and 2.23 ERA in 22 appearances.
Despite those stellar numbers, Burnes wasn’t drafted out of high school, but he did garner a handful college scholarship offers.
“I was behind the curve behind pretty much everyone because I missed my junior year,” Burnes said. “I was small in high school. I was a very underdeveloped kid. It wasn’t until my freshman or sophomore year of college that I started to grow and get the strength that I needed.”
Burnes struggled initially at St. Mary's. His freshman year he was 0-4 and 6.18 ERA.
The following season, Burnes was much improved. Serving as the Gaels’ regular Saturday starting pitcher, he finished the year 7-5 with 3.74 ERA.
Burnes took another huge step forward in his progress as a pitcher his senior year, when he was 9-2 with a 2.48 ERA and had a team-high 120 strikeouts in 101.2 innings pitched.
“In high school, pitching was pretty easy for me,” Burnes said. “I threw pretty hard so I would just basically get on the mound and throw the ball by guys. When I got to college things were a little bit different. … That first year, I really got knocked around. I was still going out there throwing as hard as I could and guys were hitting me. I had to learn how to pitch.”
According to Burnes, he learned a lot about the art of pitching and also tuned his mechanics from playing one summer during college in the Hamptons Collegiate League and another in the Cape Cod League.
“That’s when things really started to click,” Burnes said. “I found some things mechanically that helped me stay in line better. Pound the strike zone more with a lot more strike efficiency. Since I had only been pitching for a couple of years, it was just learning how to pitch.”
The highlight of Burnes’ college career was St. Mary’s winning the West Coast Conference Tournament and earning an NCAA Regional Tournament berth his junior year.
“Helping take a school that had historically been a lower-level D-I (program) to its first regional appearance ever was pretty special,” Burnes said. “That was cool.”
Burnes’ immense talent and potential caught the eye of MLB teams, including the Brewers, who selected him early during the second day of the draft.
“To get that call was pretty awesome,” Burnes said.
Burnes hopes now to move through the Milwaukee farm system as quickly as possible.
“I have no idea what the Brewers’ plan is for me,” Burnes said. “I just have to go out and give 100 percent effort every time I step on the mound.”