RHP Chase Burns, Wake Forest
After being selected by the Padres in the 20th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Chase Burns decided to attend the University of Tennessee instead, and during his first two years of college, he has risen up draft boards and may be the top pitching prospect in the nation.
Burns is transferring to Wake Forest this year, but he flashed his upside as a future impact starter in his two years at Tennessee. In 35 games (22 starts), Burns had a 3.54 ERA with a 12.8 SO/9 as a freshman and sophomore for Tennessee. 2023 saw his ERA rise to 4.25 as he split time between the rotation and bullpen, but his strikeout stuff blossomed even more as he rose to a 14.3 SO/9.
Burns has a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and can hit 102 MPH as well, and his slider (or some would call a cutter) is a plus pitch that is one of the best in the nation, His changeup may end up being a very good pitch as well, and he mixes in a curveball as well.
Tennesse is one of the best college programs in the nation, but the transfer to Wake Forest may unlock Burns even more as a pitcher. Their "Pitching Lab" is renowned around the country, and they've become one of the premier pitching programs because of it.
Depending on how Burns develops this next year, he could boast one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects in baseball upon his selection. The Cardinals never get to pick this high in drafts, so they would be foolish not to take someone with the kind of ceiling that Burns has with their first selection. There are a lot of great position players in this class as well, so even if the Cardinals don't have a top-3 pick, Burns could still be available, but we'll see how things shake out over the coming months.