Get to know Chase Burns, Wake Forest's flame-throwing starter

May 11th, 2024

Chase Burns boasts a triple-digit fastball and an elite slider, both of which have the possibility to play at the Major League level. Though the raw talent is clear, questions about his MLB potential have tempered his draft stock. But after a transfer and some changes to his mechanics, he's a potential Top 10 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. Here's what you need to know about the hard-throwing Wake Forest junior.

Ht/Wt: 6-foot-3, 210 lbs.
B/T: Right/right
DOB: Jan. 16, 2003
College: Wake Forest
High school: Beech High School (Hendersonville, Tenn.)
Born: Naples, Italy
MLB Pipeline ranking: 7

Not his first rodeo

Burns has already been drafted once. He went to the Padres in the 20th round out of high school in 2021 after a senior year in which he went 6-0 with an 0.50 ERA and 131 strikeouts in just 56 1/3 innings. Though his skill set drew some first-round interest, his decision to play college ball at Tennessee caused him to fall to the later rounds.

Burns was a standout member of the Volunteers' rotation as a freshman, going 8-2 with a 2.91 ERA and earning several national honors. But he struggled in his sophomore season in 2023, pitching to a 6.10 ERA in eight starts, prompting a move to the bullpen as a long reliever. But it was there that he became a dominant presence.

Dominance, transfer, more dominance

As a member of Tennessee's bullpen, Burns turned his season around and finished with 114 strikeouts in 72 innings. The relief stint lowered that 6.10 ERA to 4.25 by the end of the season.

Though Burns helped lead Tennessee to the 2023 College World Series and ranked third in NCAA Division I with a strikeout rate of 14.3 per nine innings, he felt he had plateaued in Knoxville and transferred to Wake Forest for the 2024 season. The change of scenery has paid dividends.

After some tweaks to his delivery, Burns has again become a top collegiate pitcher as a member of Wake's rotation. In a March 9 start against Duke, Burns struck out a career-high 14 batters across six innings, allowing just two hits and a run. At one point, he fanned seven straight.

"I think his 95th pitch was 100 miles an hour," Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter said afterward, before making a comparison to the top two pitchers taken in the 2023 Draft. "I don't know what else to say. That's as good an outing when we needed it as I've ever seen. I mean, that was certainly Paul Skenes and Rhett Lowder-esque. That was really, really special."

As of May 10, Burns was leading all Division I pitchers with 140 strikeouts. He had racked up that total in only 75 innings, good for a K/9 rate of 16.8.

Command issues conquered?

Though Burns' fastball routinely sits between 95 and 97 mph and has reached 102, it has historically been fairly straight and has been hampered by a lack of command. This led to questions about whether he's best suited as a starter or a reliever. But both issues have lessened since arriving at Wake Forest, thanks in large part to the delivery tweaks. His fastball now has some movement, and his strikeout rate had climbed to 16.8 per nine innings through his first 12 starts.

"I saw glimpses of it last year where it had some ride," Burns said. "Coming here, they told me that that type of fastball is going to play. Staying direct and directional to a straight line has helped me up that fastball with some ride, and it's helped me out a lot."

It's the kind of thing that can really boost someone's Draft stock.

"Chase is such a good athlete that once he understood how he wanted to move, it's really just exploded since then," Walter said. "He's getting better and better."

How high could he go?

While early Draft speculation had Burns well outside the top 10 picks -- he was at No. 16 on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 100 earlier this season -- his performance has led observers to reevaluate.

"Burns has been the one pitcher on the list I know I had circled ... who had the best chance to move up the list,"'s Jonathan Mayo wrote in February after Burns' six-inning, 10-strikeout performance in his first outing, "... but if he can command the baseball like he did in his first start, it would be surprising if he wasn’t in that conversation."

Burns has done nothing since then to silence that buzz. And when MLB Pipeline updated its Draft prospect rankings in late April, Burnes had vaulted up to No. 7, establishing himself as a clear-cut top-two pitching prospect, along with lefty Hagen Smith of Arkansas.

Birthplace trivia

Though Burns grew up in Gallatin, Tenn., he was born in Naples, Italy, because his parents were stationed there with the military. If he's drafted and makes it to the Majors, he would be just the fifth Italian-born pitcher in MLB history, and the first since 1950.

Overall, just seven players born in Italy have reached MLB. The only one to do so in the past 70 years is , an infielder/outfielder who logged 61 games for the Mariners from 2011-13.

First baseball memory -- ouch!

Burns' first memory of playing baseball involves both a missed popup and a very close encounter with the ball. When Burns was about 8 years old, he was out in the field and attempted to catch a popup. It didn't go well.

"Not only did I miss the popup, but it hit me right in the nose," he told Perfect Game in 2022.

The incident almost ruined his baseball career before it even started.

"It didn't break my nose, but I bled all over the place and I distinctly remember hating the game of baseball for a while after that!" he said.

But thanks to friends and teammates who encouraged him to keep going, Burns stuck with it.

"The relationships I had with them and the fun we started having really grew my love for the game," he said.

Pitching help from ... dance class?

Burns took a dance class during the spring 2024 semester that met on Fridays. So when most of his starts on the mound ended up being on Friday nights, that meant he had to dance during the day before he could pitch that night.

Turns out, pitching and dancing aren't all that dissimilar. Or, at least the movement and concentration required. Both require foot strength, toe strength and wrist strength. So one can help with the other, and vice versa.

"Getting into that class was kind of fun – a lot of stretching, a lot of individual pieces that go into it," Burns said. "Doing all those movements in class, you've gotta be sort of coordinated ... have a lot of balance, and it helps me on the mound quite a bit."