MLB's No. 7 Draft prospect tallies 15 K's in ACC Tourney start

No. 4 Draft prospect slugs decisive go-ahead homer in extra innings

May 25th, 2024

didn’t hit pause on his emphatic celebrations for conference tournament play.

In fact, MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 Draft prospect took them to new heights in the ACC Tournament. Burns -- Wake Forest’s single-season strikeout record holder -- ran into a jam with two runners on base in the fifth inning against North Carolina on Friday night.

After striking out 12 batters through his first 4 2/3 innings, Burns dropped in a breaking ball in a 1-2 count to catch Tar Heels first baseman Parks Harber swinging for the final out in the fifth inning. The righty turned and yelled towards the outfield with emotion before catcher Cameron Gill completed the strikeout with a throw to first base.

In total, Burns piled up 15 punchouts in six scoreless innings, yielding six hits and issuing two walks. It marked his fifth straight start with double-digit strikeouts, as he boosted his May total to 57 while sporting a 0.34 ERA on the month.

The Golden Spike semifinalist upped his season total in strikeouts to 184 in 95 frames. His single-season record -- which he took from 2023 seventh overall pick Rhett Lowder -- is approaching 200 as the Demon Deacons’ postseason run lived on after an emphatic win.

While Burns fell in line for a no decision, Wake Forest and North Carolina battled into an extra-inning contest, one broken up by a fellow top Draft prospect. Burns' teammate and power-hitting first baseman, No. 4 Draft prospect Nick Kurtz, slugged a two-run homer in the 12th inning, propelling the Demon Deacons in front before two more runs were tacked on in the frame.

Burns -- who transferred from Tennessee after the 2023 season -- has an arsenal consisting of three pitches graded 60 or higher (above average), which has carried him to the top of college baseball in strikeouts with the second-best K/9 (17.43) in Division I behind of Arkansas.

Ranked the top right-handed pitcher and second-best arm in the 2024 class, Burns has gained traction to be a Top 10 selection come July. Jonathan Mayo had Burns being selected 10th overall by the Nationals earlier this month, but in the most recent mock draft, Jim Callis had the flame-throwing righty even higher, going to the Angels at pick No. 8.

"In terms of stuff, Smith and Burns have quality fastball/slider combinations that absolutely could play out of a big league bullpen right now," Callis wrote in the Pipeline Inbox. "But from a practicality standpoint, they're both going to work around 100 innings during the college season, then have a six-week layoff before they sign a pro contract."