An Award a Decade in the Making
Image courtesy of © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsFor most of the past decade, the Twins have taken their lumps in the starting rotation. Top prospects have flamed out or materialized on a slower trajectory. Free agents have largely been overpaid while underproducing, and only Ervin Santana has shown a glimpse of the Johan that came before him. It’s now though, that a 32nd overall pick from Puerto Rico, could be looking at as good of an opportunity as ever.
Jose Berrios is coming off his best season as a big leaguer, and the first in which he pitched in the majors from the beginning. Tallying 192.1 IP, the Bayamon native posted a 3.84 ERA to go along with a 9.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He earned his first All Star appearance and posted a career best 3.3 fWAR to lead all Minnesota pitchers. There’s no denying the 2018 campaign was a good one for the 24-year-old, but there’s also avenue for improvement.
Over the course of the offseason, one of the most impressive developments for the organization has been the infusion of coaching talent. Specifically relating to Berrios, Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner will have a significant impact on a young and moldable arm in the years ahead. While Johnson doesn’t have the big-league track record, he’s got a list of accolade at the amateur level that doesn’t stop. His teaching along with the delivery of former big-leaguer Hefner, should go far to help the Twins staff unlock a new level of potential.
Although Johnson is known as a velocity guru, I’d assume there’s plenty of other knowledge he may be able to impart on Berrios. Jose has shoved right around 94 mph on average over the course of his career. His ridiculous bender is a great strikeout pitch, and his pitchability has improved while learning the tendencies of major league hitters.
If there’s a middle ground to be found in looking for the next step, it’s probably in quality of contact allowed. Berrios gave up a career worst 34.2% hard hit balls last season, while allowing 12.8% of fly balls to leave the yard. His stature has always provided pause on his downward plane, and questions regarding how often pitches will result in homers. On the flip side, Berrios generated a career best 11.2% swinging strike rate and got opposing batters to chase almost one-third of the time last year.
There’s really no avenue to suggest that Berrios does anything poorly. He’s well above average across the board, but it’s the smaller tweaks that may help to unlock that next tier. A year ago, he finished 11th in fWAR among American League starters. Based on betting prognostications, that’s roughly where he’s viewed going into the 2019 season. Given the assumption for continued growth from talented youth, I’m betting on another step forward being taken.
As someone who has suggested an idea that the Twins are in for a great year, and Byron Buxton’s emergence will pace the offense, it’s Berrios having a coming out party that should be a blast on the bump.
- bluechipper, nclahammer and bighat like this