Chase Burns has always had elite potential dating back to his days as a high-end prospect as a Tennessee high schooler. The right-handed pitcher was set on pitching for Tennessee in college and played a vital role for the Volunteers the last two years. But this offseason, Burns sought a fresh start.
Wake Forest wasn’t initially on his radar. But once he developed a relationship with the coaching staff, talked with star left-handed pitcher Josh Hartle and learned about the program’s pitching lab, Burns realized Wake Forest was the best fit for him.
The decision to attend Wake Forest has already paid dividends for Burns. He has cleaned up his mechanics and arm path and tightened his pitches leading up to his junior season.
Burns enters his junior season with lofty expectations. Scouts believe Burns has ace potential and consider him a potential top-10 pick in July’s MLB draft. It marks the second time Burns has received significant draft interest, as scouts believed Burns was a potential top-two-round pick out of high school in 2021 if it wasn’t for his strong commitment to Tennessee.
“I’ve definitely matured in that process a lot,” Burns said. “Social media is a big part of it. Looking at that stuff, and I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I still got to go out there and play and let that process just go out how it needs to go.”
Burns mostly thrived during his first two years of college baseball at Tennessee. As a freshman in 2022, Burns posted a 2.91 ERA with 103 strikeouts and 25 walks allowed in 80 1/3 innings, primarily as a starting pitcher. He experienced inconsistent results as a starter last season, resulting in him moving to the bullpen. He excelled in that role and finished last year with a 4.25 ERA, 114 strikeouts and 22 walks in 72 innings.
The Wake Forest junior believes the adversity he faced last year will help him moving forward. He raves about his development with his command, mechanics and pitch tunneling at Wake Forest.
Burns is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup from a high arm slot and repeatable delivery.
Burns’ fastball, slider combination is elite. His fastball sits in the high 90s and consistently hits triple digits. Burns’ fastball’s vertical break and average velocity have improved due to his mechanical tweaks. His slider is his favorite pitch and is an elite strikeout offering. It “is getting harder and has better shape and is more like a cutter this year,” Burns said.
The curveball is a quality-breaking pitch with a different movement profile than his slider that plays well off his fastball. He also occasionally throws a changeup to catch hitters off guard.
“My competitiveness. I’m going to want to win that medal for whatever team,” said Burns on his biggest strength. “My competitiveness has helped me get this far. Talent, everybody has talent, but you’re going to need stuff outside of that to push yourself ahead of everybody else.”
Burns offers front-of-the-rotation potential but must show growth with his command as a starter. After pitching his best in a bullpen role at Tennessee last year, Burns is transitioning back to starting at Wake Forest this spring. He is in an ideal situation to take the next step in his development and has looked sharp in the weeks leading up to this season.
“I feel like I need to do a better job of turning over the lineups and using all four of my pitches this year,” Burns said. “It’s going to be huge for my development and success this spring.”
Wake Forest had a notable season last year, advancing one game shy of the College World Series championship series. The Deacons didn’t lose two straight games until the CWS and finished with a 54-12 record.
This season, the Deacons hope to reach the CWS and capture their first national title since 1955. They boast a loaded roster headlined by Burns, first baseman Nick Kurtz, second baseman Seaver King, left-hander Josh Hartle and right-hander Michael Massey.
“I think any team you’re on, you’re going to have those big expectations of going to Omaha and winning it all,” Burns said. “It’s been awesome with the team culture they have. It’s just like one big family, so I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.