Sean Burke was a promising pitcher out of high school and had high expectations for his first season at Maryland in 2019.
The right-handed pitcher’s collegiate career didn’t start like he envisioned it would, however. Burke missed his freshman year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He returned last spring and displayed promising results in four starts. But his year ended prematurely, as the NCAA canceled most of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burke believes he’s a better pitcher now compared to when he first stepped on campus, even though his first two years haven’t been ideal for his development.
“The injury has honestly helped me a lot looking back on it now,” Burke said. “Obviously, at the time, I was upset that it happened. But because of that, I don’t think I would be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for that surgery.”
This year marks the second time Burke will go through the MLB draft process. He wasn’t selected out of St. John’s High in Massachusetts but received plenty of interest leading up to the 2018 draft.
Although Burke hasn’t pitched an entire season at Maryland, many consider him one of the top college pitchers this season. Professional scouts even project him as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
Burke has the potential and intangibles to move up draft boards if he has a successful junior season this year.
“It has been fun and exciting going through the meetings to see what all the teams have to offer,” Burke said. “It’s a little overwhelming at times because it’s just a lot thrown at you in such a short period. I try to embrace the moment and enjoy myself because it’s going to be one of the only times I go through this process.”
Burke is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, curveball and slider from a three-quarters arm slot and clean delivery.
His best pitch is his mid-90s fastball that features riding action. He is primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher. In the offseason, he changed his curveball grip from a traditional grip to a knuckle curveball grip. The new grip has allowed his curveball to experience better depth and shape.
Burke also added a slider in the offseason. He threw a cutter last spring due to his desire to have a hard pitch that broke laterally in his repertoire. However, he wasn’t satisfied with his cutter and felt it was best to develop a slider.
His changeup is an improving offering that features arm-side fading action.
“My competitiveness is my biggest strength,” Burke said. “I have always prided myself on being someone that can perform when my name is called. You will have days where your stuff isn’t great, or you aren’t feeling as well. But, I have the ability just to go out there and get the job done regardless of everything going on.”
Besides showing durability, Burke hopes to refine his command this season. Last year, Burke posted a 1.99 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed in 22 2/3 innings.
He believes the work he put in during the offseason to improve his secondary pitches and make mechanical adjustments will help him have more consistency this season.
“I just want to build on last year,” Burke said. “I only pitched in four games, but I felt like I was off to a pretty good start. Just winning games and keeping my team in games is important to me. I want to be consistent with all four pitches and throw all four pitches for strikes.
Maryland features one of the most talented rosters in the Big Ten this season. The Terrapins posted a 10-5 record in the pandemic-shortened season last year and believe they have all the pieces to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.
“We know we can make a run and do something special based on the brief stint we had last spring,” Burke said. “This season, we return a lot of pieces and also are adding a few talented freshmen that should make an impact. We are just excited to get going.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.