Monday, August 5, 2013

A game in Cedar Rapids: J.O. Berrios

Jose Berrios delivers what appears from
his grip to be a change-up.
(Photo by Linda Vanderwerf)
My wife and I are in Cedar Rapids, where we saw the Kernels pull out a 3-2 win Sunday. We plan also to see the same two teams tonight. (Another guy who was there: Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who sat behind home plate taking copious notes)

We got to see Jose (or J.O.) Berrios, generally regarded as one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, on Sunday. Berrios turned 19 in May; he was taken in the supplemental round in the 2012 draft and utterly dominated the rookie leagues in the 30 or so innings he got to pitch. He was effective enough in winter ball that he was selected to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, although his innings were limited.

Things have been a bit more difficult for him in the Midwest League. Not that he has pitched poorly, but he's been challenged.

On Sunday, Berrios worked six innings of one-run ball. That sounds better than it was; he allowed five hits (all singles), walked five, committed an error on a pickoff throw, and got just three strikeouts. Pitching coach Gary Lucas had to visit him in the first and fourth innings.

Berrios was in and out of jams in the first four innings, including two with the bases loaded, and didn't have a 1-2-3 inning until his final frame. He didn't record a strikeout until the fifth.

What I saw: Fastball in the low 90s, a breaking ball (I assume a slider) in the mid 80s, and a change in the mid 70s. (Those velocities come off the stadium scoreboard, and Cedar Rapids regular Jim Crikket tells me it's a slow gun). Berrios' command Sunday was inconsistent, obviously.

But the opponent -- a good Quad Cities (Astros) team featuring Carlos Correa, who is probably the best player in the Midwest League now that Bryon Buxton is in Fort Myers -- really didn't square up many balls. Several of the hits were grounders that found a  hole. Berrios got 18 outs; only four were outfield flies. He threw two double play balls, and got 10 outs on grounders.

Berrios is, by the standards of pitching prospects, short (6 feet); he is "non-projectable", a scouting term that means that physically, he's as good as he's going to get.

What I saw suggested that he has the arm and the moxie to pitch in the majors, but not the command to succeed. Which makes sense, since (Bert Blyleven notwithstanding),19-year-olds who are ready to succeed in the majors are exceedingly rare.

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