APPY: 3-0, 30.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 49/4 K/ BB
The 2012 draft was very important for the Minnesota Twins. Instead of drafting college players, the Twins used their first two picks on high school players. They took OF Byron Buxton with the #2 overall pick. With their first supplemental first-round selection, compensation for having lost Michael Cuddyer to the Rockies in free agency, the Twins took right-handed pitcher, Jose (JO) Berrios. The Twins made him the highest drafted pitcher every from Puerto Rico. It didn’t take long for him to agree to sign for a $1.55 million bonus, exactly the slot amount for the 32nd selection.
Berrios had a very impressive debut season. After reporting to Ft. Myers, he began his career with the Gulf Coast League Twins. He pitched in eight games. He was used in relief the first seven appearances before making one start. He went 1-0 with four saves. In 16.2 innings, he gave up just seven hits, walked three and struck out 27 of the 62 batters he faced. On August 6th, Berrios and Buxton were promoted to the Advanced Rookie Elizabethton Twins. Berrios made three starts for the E-Twins and went 2-0. In 14 innings, he gave up just eight hits, walked one and struck out 22 of the 51 batters he faced.
What made him so successful in his first season of pro ball? According to the Twins new Director of Minor League Operations Brad Steil, “He was confident, aggressive, and attacked with his fastball. He also located his fastball pretty well and used his off-speed more effectively as the year progressed.”
Although statistics don’t tell the full story in the lowest levels of the minor leagues, Berrios posted some amazing numbers in the GCL and was even better once he started making starts in Elizabethton. The statistic that jumps off the page is the 49:4 strikeout to walk ratio that he posted. It speaks to his control, but when an 18-year-old kid dominates in a league (Appalachian) where the average age of the hitters is 20.2, we can also conclude that he has some pretty electric stuff.
Berrios is blessed with a very strong arm. He touched as high as 98 mph although his average fastball was in the 93-95 range. More important, his fastball has a great amount of natural movement. Along with great control of his fastball, he has some secondary pitches that could become plus big league pitches. He throws a slider that is already quite good. It sits in the low 80s and is sharp. He also is throwing a changeup that has room for improvement but the mechanics with it are very good. Add in that he is very athletic and has a consistent, repeatable delivery.
Mike Radcliff is the Twins Director of Player Personnel. Understanding the importance of the 2012 draft to the Twins future, he also played a very active role in scouting. He had several wonderful things to say about Berrios. “He has a very good fastball, with velocity and life. He also has good confidence. He has good command and keeps the ball down in the zone, “he added, “He has a focus, and an aggressiveness on the field and desire and dedication in his daily approach.”
Steil said, “I would say that he showed good mound presence and pitch-ability for his age.”
Berrios has a tremendous upside, but let’s not forget that he has a long ways to go to reach the big leagues and much more developing to do.
According to Radcliff, “Like all young pitchers, he will have to improve his pitchability. He will have stuff and control, but he will need to develop his approach and style. The development of his breaking pitches and whether or not he’ll be able to use his changeup will dictate his ultimate role and ceiling.”
Steil adds, “He will need to locate his off-speed pitches more consistently and develop at least one of them into a go-to out pitch.”
Berrios is listed at just 6-0, a height that often is deemed “too short” to be a major league pitcher (or an NFL quarterback, right, Russell Wilson?). But Radcliff does not seem worried about that with the lanky Berrios. “He is a very good athlete with a durable frame. Despite his lesser bulk, he has a resilient arm which allows him to have upside and projection to all of his pitches.”
The Bottom Line
Although many teams did not think that JO Berrios would be drafted in the 1st round, the Twins were convinced of his talent, his stuff, his make-up and most important, his potential. His first-year, rookie league performance certainly was an indication that the Twins were right in their conviction. He had a remarkable season and showed the characteristics that made the Twins like him. He is just 18 years old and has room for improvement and development, as you would expect. He also has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Will Berrios begin his season in Cedar Rapids, and how quickly can he move up?
Mike Radcliff said, “Will will be diligent to place him in environments that will allow him to have success and develop simultaneously. His advancement will be determined by his ability to apply his talent along with his natural maturation to handle the pro baseball environment.”
Brad Steil added, “I would say that he showed good mound presence and pitch-ability for his age. It’s possible he could move fairly quickly, depending on how quickly his off-speed pitches improve. The Midwest League will be a good challenge for him.”
I had done quite a bit of research on potential Twins draft choices. I read quite a bit and watched several videos of Berrios. I immediately liked that the Twins made him the 32nd overall pick last summer. However, when I saw the below video of Berrios showing his reaction to being drafted by the Twins, I absolutely loved the pick.
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